Career profiles

Career profile - PhD student

“I have designed and built a diagnostic system, which would not be naturally part of a PhD based at a university.”


MSc degree in Physics with Industrial Experience at University of Bristol. Currently doing PhD with University of Liverpool based at CCFE.

What was your career path and how did you come to work at CCFE?

I did a Masters in Physics with Industrial Experience at Bristol University directly after my A-levels. This involved working in my third year in industry or a research facility. In my final year at Bristol we studied an optional module on fusion and had the opportunity as part of it to visit JET. It was on this visit that I decided I wanted to do a PhD that would be based at CCFE, as I wanted to research something that felt really worthwhile to me. York were starting their first year with a fusion doctoral training network and invited me for interview at CCFE. I was lucky to be offered the position I most wanted, an experimental PhD studying edge physics, and after six months at York University I started at CCFE.

What is your current role?

I do experimental edge plasma research and during my time here I have designed and built a diagnostic for making ion temperature measurements at the edge of the MAST plasma. I have carried out a number of experiments and taken my results, after careful analysis, to a number of conferences in the UK and internationally. I really enjoy the practical work here which is involved when you build and are responsible for a diagnostic. It also makes the results you get, after the teething problems, far more rewarding and exciting. It hasalso been great to take the work that I am so proud of to conferences in the UK, Europe and USA so that I can get new ideas from international colleagues.

Why do you enjoy working in fusion research?

One of the best things with working in fusion research is the ability to explain to someone who has no scientific background why it is worth doing. The feeling that you are working towards such an important and exciting goal encourages me to get up for work everyday. Also I find the whole thing very exciting, I mean I get to work with plasmas hotter than the sun. Even the work of a PhD student contributes to the road to fusion, you never know what you might uncover during your work which will solve one of the problems holding us back from fusion reactors.

What do you like about working at CCFE?

The working environment at CCFE is very friendly and relaxed. It is a great environment for learning as well as working and I find there is always someone that will be able and willing to help with your problems, and in turn people come to you when you are the expert (this feels pretty good too!). There are many opportunities here including getting involved inoutreach projects on site and at schools or events. The travel opportunities are one of my favourite perks; as well as conferences I have been able to work on experiments in Europe.

How does CCFE encourage career development?

There is a lot of support for PhD students; I have been given opportunities to improve my experience by working for three months in the south of France at the ITER project, which enhances my career prospects incredibly. Also my supervisor at CCFE and other members of staff are happy to make you aware of positions for after your PhD in fusion research and help prepare you for interviews. During my PhD I have also had the chance to develop skills which would not be naturally part of a PhD based at a university, particularly during the building of my diagnostic, so that I now have skills necessary to work at CCFE and other similar research facilities.