Imperial College London
My research interest is based around materials that generate and store energy. I try to understand how the electrons and atoms in existing materials behave so that we can design new materials with target properties - for example, materials can efficiently convert sunlight into electrical energy.
I grew up in Newcastle, and became interested in computers after seeing the classic 90's film Hackers as a teenager. At 19 I moved to Birmingham to study physics, and have lived in Birmingham since. After my undergraduate degree I trained as a mathematics teacher and taught at HMP Birmingham and a local primary school. During this time I also ran drop-in maths lessons at a local cafe - I enjoy getting people excited about subjects they have previously found scary.
I am now coming to the end of a PhD in computational materials science. My PhD project is centred around a family of materials called the hybrid halide perovskites. These materials have become incredibly popular over the last decade as they can convert sunlight into electricity efficiently, and have the potential to form more flexible, lightweight and cheaper solar panels than those currently on the market. My research aims to understand the quantum physics underlying this material so that we can improve the efficiency of future devices. I use a branch of physics called Density Functional Theory (DFT) to model how electrons in perovskites behave. This theory has no input from experiment - it is derived from quantum mechanics - and I still find it amazing that it is able to predict properties that are later measured in experiment.
DFT calculations can be very computationally demanding and I make extensive use of High Performance Computing resources like the national supercomputer Archer. I do not write the codes that run these calculations, I write the codes the analyse the calculation output - but like many scientists, I am a self-taught programmer and have had very little in the way of training. The two things which have had the highest impact on the quality of code I write are: 1) teaching basic programming skills (Software Carpentry) to other researchers; 2) submitting a package to the Journal of Open Source Software, a peer-reviewed journal for research code. Through my Software Sustainability Institute Fellowship project I hope to encourage other researchers to publish their code.