National Physical Laboratory

Leading Lights

Laurie Winkless                  Laurie Winkless

Laurie Winkless, NPL Higher Research Scientist and STEMNET (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics Network) Ambassador is featured in a new exhibition.

Leading Lights is an inspiring new exhibition of portraits by award-winning photographer Richard Cannon. It showcases 19 Ambassadors from all over the UK, including NPL’s Laurie Winkless, who are using science, technology, engineering and maths to push the boundaries of what is possible and to make the world a better and more exciting place to live.

Laurie Winkless’ work at NPL is different to her educational background: she gained a BSc in Physics and Astrophysics and went onto study for a Masters in Space Science. But Laurie wanted to work on technological advancements in space rather than study its scientific beauty. For this reason, she applied to NPL’s Materials team and her work now focuses on Nanomaterials - materials that are particularly interesting on the tiny (nano) scale.

Laurie’s main project is for the European Space Agency, looking into the use of Nanomaterials in the space industry. Nanomaterials are used in everyday products including sporting goods like tennis rackets and golf clubs, to make them lightweight and strong, and in cosmetics and sunscreens to allow them to be absorbed into the skin more easily. However, their use in the space industry is limited and Laurie’s work is breaking new ground in applying Nanomaterials technology to Europe’s space industry:

"The weight of spacecraft is a key factor in the overall cost of any space mission," she says. "If we can identify better, lighter and more efficient materials and the best ways of using them, it will have a huge impact on the space programme."

Laurie is passionate about communicating science to young people. She says:

"I knew that I wanted to work in science when at aged five I used my first telescope to see the Moon. Every scientist can pinpoint the moment or person who made them realise that science was what they wanted to do. Too many young people think science is a difficult and scary subject and I’m committed to helping them see how fun and interesting it really is."

The Leading Lights portraits challenge perceptions about the kind of people who work in these fields and bring to life the ground-breaking projects and cutting-edge research that these young men and women are working on. Leading Lights opens at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on 1 May 2009 before touring the country.

The STEM Ambassadors are part of a scheme run by STEMNET

Find out more about about NPL’s Outreach Programme

Last Updated: 25 Mar 2010
Created: 20 Apr 2009

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