How did you end up at NPL?
I did A levels in maths, physics, chemistry, further maths and general studies at a further education college, rather than a sixth form. This made a huge difference for me - it taught me to work on my own, so it was a great route into university. I studied maths at Cambridge, and in the summer holidays I did mathematical modelling at the company my dad worked for. That experience made me realise that that's what I wanted to do with maths - to apply it to real-world systems. I went to Oxford for my masters and could have gone on to go a PhD, but I was reluctant to study a single topic for three or four years - I'm more of a multi-tasker.
I got a job at the Transport Research Laboratory, and then spent three years modelling processes for a firm that made roof tiles. I left because I was getting further from the maths, so I applied to NPL. It was a great fit for what I'm good at and what I was interested in - the ideal job for a generalist mathematician like me.
Tell us about your work
I'm lucky because I get involved in a huge range of things - it's not just fluid dynamics, or solid mechanics, it's also electromagnetism and multiphysics, and at all scales. One of the things I'm looking at now is a piezoelectric transistor memory device, which is important for increasingly small electronics. I'm also working on modelling a nanoparticle sizing system.
What do you enjoy about being here?
I didn't have a grand vision of what being a scientist actually involved, but I'm very happy with how my career's going. I'm good at science, and it has a use too. I get to work on a constant flux of new, interesting problems. I get to determine my own research focus and get funding for it, but I also get to collaborate with excellent people with really interesting problems… I am never bored. At heart, I am a problem solver and as a mathematician, I have the benefit of being able to do my science in my head while I'm supposedly listening to other people!