Favourite Thing: Play with cool new toys and gadgets.
Laurieknowe Primary, Mawelltown High School, Dumfries Academy, Glasgow University
A University degree in Physics and a PhD in laser stabilisation
Glasgow University, Scotland and Hannover University in Germany
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.
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 anywhere, 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.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Running space geek
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
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?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not that I’ll admit to.
What was your favourite subject at school?
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?
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Cleverer, faster, funnier.
Tell us a joke.
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 . Very few people are allowed into this room so we have to do all of the cleaning ourselves .
We had to build a small, clean, box to test some equipment by heating it up .
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 .
The actual thing we built is called the optical bench, and looks like this .