Dr Alan Barr
As an undergraduate, Alan Barr studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge. He chose to specialise in physics as he found biology "too hard". He spent a summer working at CERN in Switzerland and became hooked. Alan stayed at Cambridge for his PhD, contributing to the development of sensitive detectors for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and researching experimental signatures for supersymmetry - a theoretical mathematical symmetry in particles.
After Cambridge, Alan became a lecturer at University College London, and has been a lecturer at Oxford and Fellow of Merton College since 2007.
Alan's research interest is in experimental physics of elementary particles in high energy colliders. He uses the LHC to search for, and look at properties of, new theoretical particles. He has also been involved in developing new particle detectors.
Alan is active in communicating physics to the public. As well as television interviews with Sky, ITV and Channel 4 News, he presented a documentary on LHC physics that was broadcast by the National Geographic Channel. He has been involved in a number of school events, including organising visits to the LHC, and was awarded the Institute of Physics 'High Energy Particle Physics Group' Science in Society Award, 2009.
About working with the LHC, Alan says: "I feel privileged to be able to play my part and delighted to be able to work with such great people".
Read more about Alan's research here.
Prof Dorothy Bishop
Dorothy Bishop was always interested in psychology, although she admits she didn't know much about it until becoming an undergraduate at Oxford. It was the ability to study psychology using a scientific, experimental approach that ultimately hooked her into making it her career.
After graduating, Dorothy undertook an MPhil in Clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, part of the University of London. She then returned to Oxford for a post which allowed her to be a research assistant while studying for a DPhil. Her research involved exploring the development of language disorders in children.
Many years later she still finds this topic fascinating. Because she has full funding from the Wellcome Trust, she has been able to investigate language problems from many different angles: psychology, linguistics, neuroscience and genetics. She finds the most interesting aspects are where these areas overlap.
The nature of Dorothy's research means she spends a lot of time actively engaging the public. She blogs, tweets and gives talks. She is also a founder of RALLI, a YouTube campaign to raise awareness of language learning impairments (www.youtube.com/RALLIcampaign). Dorothy is also a winner of the Annual Book Prize of the British Psychological Society for her book 'Uncommon Understanding'.
Dorothy's advice to young scientists is: "Resist the pressure to do huge amounts of stuff and concentrate your energy on a few things that really excite you. If the science is right, the success will follow naturally, but if you strive for success, the science gets distorted"
Dr Matthew Charles
Mat Charles studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, sidestepping biology by choosing Maths with Physics. He focused on particle physics in his final year, including a research project using data from the Large Electron-Positron collider at CERN in Switzerland.
Hooked on the subject, he moved to Oxford for his DPhil, helping to prepare the LHCb experiment for data-taking. The highlight was a test with particle beams to prove that LHCb's silicon detectors and readout chips would be fast enough, as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produces one collision event every 25 nanoseconds.
After his DPhil Mat moved to the USA and joined the BaBar experiment. This is an international collaboration of more than 500 physicist and engineers. Mat was investigating the properties of particles with a charm quark and developing analysis software for the planned International Linear Collider.
A few years later, Mat was awarded a Science and Technology Facilities Council Advanced Fellowship. This allowed him to rejoin the Oxford LHCb group. He uses the enormous LHC data samples to look for tiny and unexpected differences between matter and antimatter. These could be caused by the same unknown interactions that gave us a matter-dominated universe.
Mat says: "It's terrifically exciting to work on the LHC. We have a chance to peek behind the curtain of the universe, to see things no one has ever seen before."
Read more about Oxford research using the LHCb here
Prof Amanda Cooper-Sarkar
Amanda Cooper-Sarkar first came to Oxford as an undergraduate in 1968, and stayed to complete her DPhil in physics on Kaon-proton (subatomic particles) scattering.
After her DPhil, she took on a series of research posts that were more about travel than physics. Starting at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in Bombay, she went on to work at the KEK High Energy Accelerator in Japan.
Returning to the UK in 1980, Amanda went to work at the Rutherford Appleton Lab and became interested in studying the deep structure of the proton by using small probes like the neutrino or the electron. This work gave her more travel opportunities, with posts at the CERN (Switzerland) and DESY (Hamburg) accelerators.
While in Bombay, Amanda met her husband, who also works in particle physics. They had two children which meant that Amanda's career had to take a back seat for several years. She was restricted in the hours she could work and the travelling she could do.
However, staying in the research field she knew meant she became an expert in how quarks and gluons behave inside the proton. Her expertise is now very much in demand.
Amanda returned to Oxford in 1990 and became a professor of physics in 2008.
She says "My career path wasn't direct and I made some unconventional decisions, but I got there in the end."
At school, Mike Dodd enjoyed biology and chemistry, and had an inspirational teacher who had worked in research. It was therefore an obvious choice for Mike to study biochemistry and follow his passion to become a scientist.
While an undergraduate at Bath, Mike travelled to the USA twice for research placements investigating the brain. On one trip he joined a team trying to understand why the brain swells when you drink too much water.
Although he was interested in neurology, Mike really wanted to know more about the heart condition that runs in his family. So in 2008 he came to Oxford to undertake a DPhil in heart research. He is currently researching how and why the heart fails. He uses magnetic resonance imaging to study the heart's structure and function. This technique uses powerful magnets to allow the visualisation of the inside of the body, including the heart.
Mike has been actively involved in communicating science, including taking part in "I'm A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here", the 'Wow How' science fair in Oxford, and the ‘Big Bang’ science fair in Birmingham. Every year the lab Mike works in opens their doors to British Heart Foundation Volunteers so they can see what happens to the money they help raise.
About researching the heart, Mike says: "I find it really exciting to work on the heart. It's amazing to realise it needs to beat 100,000 times a day, for the whole of your life."
Read more about Mike's research here.
Dr Malcolm John
Malcolm John grew up in Penzance, west Cornwall. He had an early interest in maths and physics, which he studied at A level. He moved to Imperial College, London, for his degree in physics, and stayed to complete a PhD. His research area was the initial stages of the LHCb experiment. This is now a huge international collaboration producing world class papers on the physics of quarks and leptons - types of elementary particle.
Having completed his PhD, Malcolm moved to Paris to work on projects with NASA and the Stanford Linear Accelerator in California. A few years later he returned to the LHCb at CERN in Switzerland. The detector was now up and running and Malcolm was involved in commissioning the full experiment ready to start gathering data.
Shorty after this, Malcolm came to Oxford as a Royal Society University Research Fellow. He is still working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and enjoys sharing his research with some of the many visitors to CERN.
Malcolm says: "I'm heavily involved in the analyses that are pouring out of the LHC. This is a fantastic culmination of 15 years of hard work since the first prototypes."
Read more about Oxford research using the LHCb here
Jessica Lam always wanted to be an astronaut, but was let down by her eyesight. Staying close to her passion, she chose to study for a degree in Chemical Engineering and Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Many NASA astronauts are MIT alumni, plus MIT had classes and tutorials from people such as the director of the Apollo Space Mission, and the astronaut who fixed the Hubble Space Telescope.
After graduating, Jessica moved to Yale for a Masters in Physical Chemistry, before coming to Oxford for her DPhil in Prof Tim Softley's research group. Jessica's research is into creating a source of cold, dense Bromine atoms by breaking apart molecular Bromine with lasers and trapping the atoms between magnets. The behaviour of these cold atoms can then be studied.
About her research into cold chemistry, Jessica says: "I absolutely love my work. Members of our research group are from a diverse range of backgrounds, from plasma physics to atmospheric chemistry, but we all share the same passions."
Jessica has very clear goals for her future: to be a professor studying chemical reactions at ultracold temperatures; and an advisor to the US Government on using science, technology and public policy to combat global poverty.
Outside of science, Jessica has two more goals: to become UN High Commissioner on Human Rights or Sexual Violence; and build her One Woman a Year Foundation www.onewomanayear.org, which educates and empowers the most oppressed and illiterate women.
Read more about cold chemistry research at Oxford here
Dr Sneha Malde
Sneha Malde undertook her first degree at Oxford, studying physics. After graduating she started training to be an accountant, but the draw of physics didn't go away. After a year she returned to Oxford for her DPhil in Particle Physics. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) wasn't yet built, so her research was conducted as part of the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) group at Oxford. This used data from the Tevatron accelerator, based just outside Chicago, in the USA. Until the LHC began operating, this was the highest-energy collider in the world. Sneha studied how long particles containing 'b-quarks', a type of elementary particle, exist before decaying.
After some time as a post-doc on the CDF experiment, the LHC was ready to start collisions. Sneha returned to Oxford to join the LHCb research group; an obvious choice as the focus of the LHCb collaboration is to study particles containing 'b-quarks'.
Sneha says: "Right now I'm interested in making precise measurements of properties of known particles rather than searching for the existence of unknown particles. Particles containing b-quarks provide lots of interesting possibilities for doing that."
One of the main goals of LHCb is to investigate the differences between matter and anti-matter. The measurements Sneha is making will add to this understanding.
Sneha is based in Oxford where she carries out data analysis, but also occasionally travels to CERN in Switzerland. She's looking forward to many more years working in particle physics helping to interpret the data collected by LHCb.
Read more about Oxford research using the LHCb here
Dr Anna Michell
With interests in subjects as diverse as volcanology and marine biology, Anna decided to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge. Here, she rediscovered a love of genetics, which had interested her at school. Anna carried out projects on Japanese ladybirds and microscopic worms, learning that science often doesn’t allow you to get the right answer first time round, but it can be interesting and fun getting there.
After graduating, Anna moved to Oxford to work as a research assistant in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. She really enjoyed this and decided to study for a DPhil looking into the genetic causes of inherited heart problems. Anna realised how much these issues affect patients and their families, so after her DPhil she decided to train as a genetic counsellor at Cardiff University.
Anna now works as a Cardiac Genetic Counsellor at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. She supports Prof Hugh Watkins’ patients and helps them access genetic testing for conditions affecting the heart muscle. Anna says: “It is very rewarding to see how genetic tests can help guide the clinical screening we need to offer families affected by these conditions, and to help patients understand why and how a condition runs in their family”.
It will soon be possible to look at a patient’s whole genome, which will make genetic testing more complex and interesting. Anna aims to become involved with advising doctors and counsellors how to offer and explain these tests, and to shape the future of the expanding field of genetic counselling.
Anna was one of the scientists advising the creation of the Oxford Sparks animation Another Case of Heart Trouble.
Dr Dianne Newbury
At school, Dianne Newbury was unsure of her future career path, but she found genetics fascinating and decided to study it at Nottingham University. Dianne didn't really excel at practical lab work until her final year, when she found that working on a real project, where there was flexibility to explore rather than following a recipe, was something she enjoyed and was really good at.
After graduating, keen to do more research, Dianne moved to Oxford to join a team exploring dyslexia and language impairment. The genetic aspect interested her and after a couple of years she got funding to undertake a DPhil on language impairment. During this time she fell pregnant and her first child was born two days after submitting her thesis.
For the following 7 years, Dianne worked part time to be with her children. She continued to work on language impairment, getting satisfaction from it being relevant to everyone, and the fact that it requires knowledge of several different disciplines.
Returning to work full time in 2009, Dianne was awarded funding from the Medical Research Council and St Johns College Oxford.
Dianne is active in communicating biology to the public. She has been involved in a Wellcome Trust-funded animation about cells, taken part in school events, hosted work experience students and written articles.
Dianne continues to research the genetic factors that predispose people to language impairment. Dianne says: "I hope that my research can help identify the biology behind language problems and help us to understand what causes these disorders."
Read more about Dianne's research here.
Professor Kia Nobre
Professor Kia Nobre left her hometown of Rio de Janeiro with great ambivalence to study at a liberal arts college in the United States. She had wanted to study science from a young age, but wasn’t sure what area. It wasn't until she took a college course on 'brain and behaviour' that she found an area that really interested her and she became a neuroscientist.
Kia went to Yale to study for a PhD. Her research looked at activity in the human brain, mapping how different areas contributed to perception and language. At this time, non-invasive imaging methods were just being developed. Kia was part of the first generation of scientists to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
In 1994, Kia came to Oxford as a lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience and Junior Research Fellow of New College. She now researches how neural activity linked to perception and cognition changes according to memories, motivations, expectations and task goals.
Kia is very active in public outreach and engagement. As well as taking part in TV programmes, including the BBC’s Horizon and Bang Goes the Theory, there are many events at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity which she directs.
About her research, Kia says: "The magic between mind and brain was what sparked my scientific curiosity. My younger brother had severe cerebral palsy. I spent hours wondering what his mental world was like, and how a brain could come to shape that. In a sense, I am still wondering."
Find out more about Kia’s research here
Dr Michele Paulatto
As a teenager, Michele Paulatto became curious about how the Earth and the Universe work, so chose to study physics and geophysics at the University of Trieste in Italy. During this time he became fascinated by volcanoes. In 2007 Michele came to the UK to study for a PhD at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. He investigated the plumbing system of an active volcano on Montserrat, in the Caribbean, using techniques similar to CAT-scans that are used in medicine.
In 2011, Michele came to Oxford, drawn by an interest in researching wider scale structures, rather than a single volcano. He currently studies underwater subduction zones, where one of the Earth’s tectonic plates is pulled under another. As well as the physical processes involved, Michele is interested in the effects this has on earthquakes and other seismic activity.
Michele’s has presented his work to groups of amateur geologists, and his research has been featured several times on the BBC news website and on Science Daily online.
About his research, Michele says “Geophysics allows us to explore the interior of the Earth with increasing detail. I’m excited about what more we will discover when we add in our new learning about the geological processes that drive our planet.”
Read more about Michele's research here
You could find out more about some of Michele's work in the Oxford Sparks animation Underwater Volcano Disaster.
Dr Andrew Powell
During his undergraduate physics degree at Imperial College, London, Andrew developed a passion for instrumentation and fundamental physics. He gained research experience in the University's High Energy Physics group and as a summer student at CERN in Switzerland. He found the research fascinating and moved to Oxford to undertake a DPhil.
Andrew's DPhil research centred around the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This experiment searches for physics beyond the Standard Model and attempts to understand the origins of the matter anti-matter asymmetry in the universe.
Following his DPhil, Andrew was awarded a Science and Technology Facilities Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship to continue his research on the LHCb experiment. His interests lie in novel particle detection techniques and measurements associated with the difference in behavior between matter and anti-matter. His research in the latter also involves him studying data acquired at the CLEO experiment. CLEO is the longest running experiment in the history of particle physics.
As well as being passionate about the research, Andrew works hard to promote particle physics to young people. He delivers talks to schools and has been involved in organising summer schools for undergraduates.
Andrew says: "Since the LHC was switched on there have been lots of exciting results and developments. I’m looking forward to being involved in ground breaking measurements as more data at higher energies is gathered."
Read more about Oxford research using the LHCb here
Prof David Pyle
David Pyle was first captivated by volcanoes at the age of seven, while sitting on the freshly erupted deposits of Villarica volcano in Chile. At university, David studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge. He first specialised in geology and later, for his PhD, in volcanology.
After completing research fellowships at Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology, David returned to Cambridge as a lecturer. He moved to Oxford in 2006, where he is now Professor of Earth Sciences and a Tutorial Fellow at St Anne's College.
David started his research career studying the ancient deposits of Santorini volcano, Greece, where he developed new methods for measuring the size of past eruptions. His work has subsequently taken him to four continents to work on live and extinct volcanoes. More recently, most of his work has focussed on improving our knowledge of past eruptions and of patterns of volcanic activity. The aim is to use this information to help understand what might happen in the future at young or active volcanoes. In 2003, David had a chance to return to Villarica on a research visit. He is currently working on active volcanoes in Chile, Ethiopia and Greece.
David has been involved in science outreach for some years. In 2011, he was a zone winner in the "I'm a scientist get me out of here" competition, which he described as a “two week immersion in the excitement of science”. You can see his 2011 Oxford Christmas Science lecture here.
David was the scientist behind the creation of the Oxford Sparks animation Underwater Volcano Disaster, and is the academic lead for the entire Oxford Sparks project.
Read more about David’s research here.
Prof Tim Softley
At school, Tim Softley felt there was plenty to learn about Chemistry and they were hardly scratching the surface. He came to Oxford to study Chemistry and found his suspicions were right.
After graduating, Tim moved to Southampton to undertake a PhD. He used infrared lasers to investigate how chemical bonds are broken. Reactions happen due to chemical bonds being made and broken, so his research was fundamental to many aspects of chemistry.
Tim then spent two years at Stanford University, developing deep ultraviolet (UV) lasers to investigate chemical reactivity. In 1987 he moved to Cambridge and put the deep UV lasers into action, studying unusual behaviour of molecules in highly energetic states.
Tim returned to Oxford in 1990 and is now Chair of the Department of Chemistry. He leads a group researching the chemical and physical behaviour of molecules at temperatures close to absolute zero. They use techniques involving lasers and electric fields to make molecules move very slowly (another way of saying they are very cold) and then study how the low temperature affects their reactivity.
Tim is keen to share his love of chemistry. He has given talks to schools and worked with Oxford Sparks on creating the 'Towards Absolute Zero' animation.
About his research, Tim says: 'I am excited by exploring how chemistry happens at temperatures colder than any natural place in the Universe. This kind of fundamental science is like walking across untrodden snow - you never know what you will discover or when you will fall through a hole!'
Read more about Tim’s research here
Dr Thomas Woolley
Thomas Woolley became interested in maths as he found it fun and it was a common language across the sciences. But it was during the third year of his Master's degree that he found his real calling, Mathematical Biology. This discipline uses mathematical tools to unravel mysteries such as how animals get their skin patterns or how infections travel through populations.
Thomas decided to undertake a DPhil, researching the effects of noise and randomness on stripe and spot patterns. He now uses maths to try to understand cellular motility.
Thomas has worked with the BBC and other production companies on programmes such as "Dara O'Briain's School of Hard Sums". He also provided illustrations for Marcus du Sautoy's recent book "The Number Mysteries". He went on to develop the book's themes into a further education course for Oxford's Department for Continuing Education.
About his research, Tomas says "Being part of an interdisciplinary field means I have to translate ideas between the mathematical and biological communities, and trust me, they speak very different languages!"
Dr Kit Yates
Inspirational teachers were behind Kit Yates choosing to study maths. He also liked the fact that maths was based on a set of rules that enabled you to solve different problems, rather than having to rote learn facts.
Kit came to Oxford as an undergraduate, taking courses in mathematical biology and physiology. He stayed at Oxford to study for a Masters in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing. During his Masters, Kit gained a place as part of Oxford's Systems Biology Doctoral Training Centre, where scientists from different disciples come together for teaching and are given opportunities for collaborative research.
For his DPhil, Kit mathematically modelled cell movement. This helps scientists understand how cells interact with their environment. In the future this could help prevent diseases such as arthritis, which are caused by defects in cell migration.
Kit is now a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church College. He still works on biological problems, such as motion in locust swarms and the pattern formation on egg shells.
Kit is active in public engagement, being part of Marcus Du Sautoy's 'Marcus' Marvellous Mathemagicians'. With M3, he has given talks to schools and the public, and run stalls at a number of festivals and events. Kit has also appeared on the BBC's 'Bang goes the Theory' and was a consultant for 'Dara O'Briain's school of hard sums'.
Read more about Kit's research and outreach activities here:
And follow him on Twitter @Kit_Yates_Maths
Prof Hugh Watkins
Hugh Watkins initially trained in medicine, mostly in London but with a spell in Oxford, with the expectation of becoming a full-time clinician. He found that his chosen speciality, cardiology, was an exciting area for clinical practice, but wasn’t very scientific. So he decided to explore his long-standing interest in genetics by training in a leading laboratory at Harvard, and quickly became hooked.
Hugh joined the field of genetics at an exciting time, when new tools made it possible to clone human disease genes. He set out to work on inherited heart muscle diseases, an area of research that still excites him. At the start, every discovery was pushing knowledge forward, but this ‘blue skies research’ has now led to real improvements in the way that patients and families are cared for.
Hugh returned to Oxford in 1996 to be Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and has continued to work as both a clinician and research scientist. About this balancing act, Hugh says “clinical work is rewarding day by day, but practice changes slowly and can become less challenging over time. Research, however, is often frustrating as you want to go faster than may be possible, but can produce occasional huge excitement, and a sense of progress and achievement over time. So the mixture is great and I feel lucky to work in both worlds”.
Hugh has presented his work on Tomorrow’s World, the Sunday Times educational CD ROM: ‘Web of Life’, and at the BA Festival of Science.
Hugh was one of the scientists advising the creation of the Oxford Sparks animation Another Case of Heart Trouble.
Read more about Hugh's research here.