Photo:

David Robertson

Favourite Thing: Play with cool new toys and gadgets.

My CV

Education:

Laurieknowe Primary, Mawelltown High School, Dumfries Academy, Glasgow University

Qualifications:

A University degree in Physics and a PhD in laser stabilisation

Work History:

Glasgow University, Scotland and Hannover University in Germany

Current Job:

Research Scientist

Employer:

Glasgow University

About Me

I live in Glasgow with my wife and daughters and

I live in Glasgow with my wife and daughters. I cycle to work every day and also enjoy running and orienteering. I find it difficult to sit still for long.

My Work

Trying to observe gravitational waves using lasers in spacecraft.

I work in Glasgow University Physics department, where we were recently part of the detection of gravitational waves from two colliding black holes. I am part of a small team that built a laser interferometer (a fancy ruler using laser light) that is now flying in the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft.

My Typical Day

Playing in the lab, analysing data and web-meetings.

First thing is a cup of tea, then check that the spacecraft is still working. I might then spend the morning in our experimental lab trying to improve how we build our interferometers. After lunch I would analyst data from one of the spacecraft experiments from a few days ago and at the end of the day I would have a web-meeting with scientists from Spain, Germany, France, Italy, USA to discuss our results and plan the next spacecraft experiments.

What I'd do with the money

Make models of my spacecraft and optical bench to take to schools and science festivals.

The flight model of our optical bench (laser ruler) is 1.5 million km away. We have a spare, but are not allowed to move it anywheremyimage5, so I’d like to have models made of the optical bench, the LPF spacecraft, and the LISA spacecraft so we can take them to schools and science festivals and explain how they work.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Running space geek

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Queen

What's your favourite food?

Oranges

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Plan a World Championship orienteering race that was on live TV in 5 countries.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Astronaut

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not that I’ll admit to.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Build and operate a satellite

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My dad

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Mapper/cartographer

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Cleverer, faster, funnier.

Tell us a joke.

No

Other stuff

Work photos:

Sometimes I work in a very clean laboratory. We have to wear special “clean room” clothes to stop bits of dust and dirt from us and our clothes getting on to the sensitive equipment. Here I am in the very flattering clean room suit using a Coordinate Measuring Machine (a big machine that is basically a very good ruler) to measure a bit of the optical bench that was later launched into space myimage1. Very few people are allowed into this room so we have to do all of the cleaning ourselves myimage2.

We had to build a small, clean, box to test some equipment by heating it up myimage3.

Now that our spacecraft is flying, I spend some time in Germany at the Mission Operation Centre, helping to command the spacecraft and analyse the data myimage4.

The actual thing we built is called the optical bench, and looks like this myimage5.