It’s my particle and I can science if I want to! Join us for this very exciting week at Real Scientists, which will be split up among 5 wonderful researchers that are all working with one of the most fascinating machines in the world.
Our third curator this week will be Suzie Sheehy (@suziesheehy), a Researcher at the University of Oxford! Here’s Suzie in her own words:
When I was younger I was always interested in understanding the world around me. I was always pretty good at science subjects at school but I also loved other subjects, including English, Drama and Music. I remember a friend of me telling me I’d make a good scientist one day in Chemistry class, but I never really knew what scientists really did on a daily basis. I knew they made discoveries and did research, but the question of how people actually discover new things… I had no idea how that worked. At the end of high school I picked up a great book on astrophysics at the local library that really blew my mind, and decided to enrol in some astrophysics courses as part of my combined Engineering and Science degree. Despite that, I didn’t realise I wanted to be a scientist until about half way through my degree! I guess I was planning on being a civil engineer until one particular lecture in my second year at university. I asked a question in a physics lecture which my lecturer said didn’t have an answer, in fact, it was his research field… It was the first time I realised that asking the right questions could lead to uncovering new knowledge. From that point on I was hooked on the idea of a research career, as I’m just a naturally curious person who asks lots of questions.
When I was studying physics, the Large Hadron Collider was just being built. I became fascinated with the Universe on the smallest scale; that is, how everything around us is built up from the tiniest constituents. Where did they come from? How do we even know they exist? Eventually, I became interested in the question ‘now that we know about them… what can we DO with them?’
I was lucky enough to spend 3 months working at CERN one summer which solidified my interest in particle physics. Along the way of course I came across particle accelerators, although I didn’t really consider working in the field until later.
When I applied to Oxford to do my PhD, one of my interviewers was chatting to me about how we use particle accelerators to treat cancer, and I suddenly saw these machines in a completely different light. I realised that I could use my knowledge of particle physics for real life-changing applications and I swiftly changed my hat from ‘particle physics’ to ‘accelerator physics’ and never looked back.
What keeps me in my field is the infinite possibilities I see for particle beams. I feel that we’re only just scratching the surface of what we could achieve by generating, controlling and using beams of fundamental particles. Along the way I get to work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known, I get to teach and work with super bright students and I get to share my enthusiasm with the wider public.
I design new types of particle accelerators for various applications from cancer treatment to energy applications. At the moment I’m also focused on a new experiment to try and help us better understand how beams behave in accelerators.
Check out my recent Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution if you want the full run-down!
Alongside my research I’m also lucky enough to do a lot of public speaking, getting to work with some fantastic TV presenters and science communicators to share science with about 15,000 people live on stage and many more through TV, radio, YouTube etc…
For the last 6 years I seem to have become a long distance runner. I’ve run three marathons, a pile of half marathons and earlier this year did my first 50 mile ultramarathon along the South Downs Way. To balance that out, I also like cooking extravagant meals.
What would you do on your ideal day off? A run in the sunshine somewhere lovely, followed by a relaxed brunch and fantastic coffee (I’m from Melbourne, Australia, the home of amazing coffee…) and that would set me up for just about anything!
Please welcome Suzie to Real Scientists!