Case study

Research scientist — Dr Ceri Brenner

Ceri completed her PhD studies at the University of Strathclyde and is now working for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

My research is in high power laser-plasma interactions, with a particular interest in laser-driven particle acceleration. These compact, high quality beams have lots of potential uses, including in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, detection of explosives, illegal drugs and other dangerous substances, and in high-energy particle physics research. The fact that my research can be applied for the benefit of humanity is a major motivator for me.

I'm an experimentalist, and nearly all of my time was spent doing experiments within an international team of at least six people, for four to six weeks at a time. I travelled overseas quite a lot during my PhD studies, both to carry out experiments in other labs, and to attend conferences. My favourites were in Japan, New York and Prague.

I took an interest in laser fusion during my undergraduate degree. I spoke about my interest to one of my tutors, who had connections at the Central Laser Facility, so I was able to apply there for a summer placement, where I learnt about lasers and plasma physics and discovered what frontier research was really like. I knew that I wanted to carry out postgraduate work in this research field, so I applied for a PhD post.

I think researchers develop a number of skills, many of which can be applied to life more generally. These include an ability to tackle difficult questions, to solve problems, think logically and clearly, and approach a task with precision.

Since completing my PhD studies, I am now working for the STFC's Harwell Imaging Partnership, as well as pursuing my research from within the STFC's Central Laser Facility and have achieved the role that I set out to find.

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