Primary: Patrician Primary School, Newbridge Co. Kildare (1985-1993); Secondary: Patrician Secondary School, Newbridge (1993-1999); University: Trinity College Dublin (Degree: 1999-2003, PhD: 2003-2007)
I have a BA Mod (Trinty’s way of saying a science degree) and a Phd (I’m a doctor of physics)
I’ve worked at Trinity College Dublin (in the physics department) and at Imperial College London (with the chemists)
I’m an Assistant Professor in the School of Physics at Trinity College
Trinity College (which means the state (which means the tax-payer))
Favourite thing to do in science: It has to be a combination between demonstrating beautiful science to an audience and that moment when you’re in the lab and something amazing happens – the eureka moment!
My Work: I’m a nanoscientist – harnessing the super-dooper from the nitty-gritty!
My Typical Day: A whirlwind of talking, teaching, learning and doing
My day is a frantic combination of lectures, experiments, banging my head off the desk to work out where I went wrong with an experiment or frantically sharing my new found amazing result with colleagues. Today, I lectured 200 first-year engineers on sound (this involved demonstrating ‘resonance’ by smashing a wine glass with sound), I tutored 5 physics students on mechanics (why things move the way they do), I worked in the lab with my PhD student on adding tiny nano-materials to Nylon (we’re working on a top-secret project), I designed an advert for the DART that will convey the beauty of physics to the public (another project of mine), I read my friend’s recent scientific publication, and I wrote part of an application to buy a new piece of equipment for my lab…
3 cups of coffee
2km of walking (around college)
30 mins chatting on the phone
60 mins in meetings
150 mins in the lab
2 hours teaching
~5 quick conversations with people in the hallway
1 dropped piece of glass
1 lunch + 1 chat about research funding in Ireland
2 great ideas (1 might work)
way too much time in front of my computer
What I'd do with the money: D’art of Physics – my idea to place physics challenges on Dublin’s metro
D’art of Physics will engage an extraordinary amount of the Irish public with physics. Statements and challenges that would be placed on the DART (Dublin’s metro) and will connect with them in a manner that educates, changes perception, and captures beauty.
A team of physicists at Trinity College Dublin would produce ‘catchy’ statements and challenges that would appear on the DART. Examples of these include ‘Take the DART to work – arrive younger than if you walked‘ (based on Einstein’s relativity), ‘The moon is moving away from us at the speed your finger nails grow‘ (astronomy), ‘A sheet of carbon atoms only one atom thick, could support the weight of your cat‘ (nano-materials), and questions like ‘how many leaves will fall in Dublin this autumn?’ (a classic ‘Fermi problem’ where physics can make estimations).
As well as producing the statements/challenges, links would be provided (on the DART poster) to further on-line content as well as to social media sites where conversations based on the various D’art of Physics pieces can be discussed. These would be controlled by physicists at TCD.
This ambitious project aims to spark a city-wide conversation about physics!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, interested, cheeky
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Christy Moore if I’m honest.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I’ve trekked through the jungle of Borneo looking for wildlife.
What did you want to be after you left school?
A scientist, a vet, or a pilot
Were you ever in trouble at school?
sometimes… for talking too much
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Tricky. Toss up between talking about my scientific breakthroughs to Nobel Laureates and making those breakthroughs in the lab
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
to fly, to teleport, to be able to play every musical instrument
Tell us a joke.
I quit my job the Helium factory…. I wasn’t going to be spoken to in that tone..