Dr Yvette Hancock (YH) is a lecturer at the Department of Physics, University of York. As well as science, she is trained in performing arts and has a passion for making her research come alive through song, dance and stories. She is the creator of ‘Ellie the Electron’, and have written and performed in a pantomime play about her character to delight UK audiences. You can meet Yvette and Ellie at our Soapbox Science (SS) event this Sunday, 12-3, Gabriel’s wharf, London. You can also follow Ellie on twitter @EllieElectron
SS: Yvette, it’s a real pleasure to have you onboard for our London event this year. Let’s start by knowing a bit more about your career path: how did you end up in your current position?
YH: My current position as Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of York would not have happened without my PhD and the experience I obtained as a researcher afterwards. I obtained my PhD in 2003 at Monash University in Melbourne, with a specialisation in theoretical quantum physics and engineering of nanoscale technologies. While at Aalto University in Helsinki from 2006 to 2009, I was the research manager of a large-scale collaboration with the Nokia Corporation, where one of the projects I supervised was the application of grapheme in next generation mobile technologies. In 2009, I was appointed as a Lecturer at the University of York, where I continue my work on both theoretical and experimental studies of graphene. Altogether, I believe the international experience and working in collaboration with industry helped enormously.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
YH: For a long time I did not know I was going to be a physicist. What I trusted were my questions, which led down the physics path. My inspiration? That would be nature and understanding her mysteries. I am also inspired by other scientists (past, present and future)—by the community working in this awe-inspiring field.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research?
YH: I am fascinated by quantum physics, which governs the very small worlds of atoms. Understanding and engineering on this scale is an enormous challenge—think about creating technologies that fit within the width of a human hair! On a daily basis I am working in collaboration with scientists across a broad-range of disciplines; chemistry, electronics, biomedicine, mathematics, etc. Certainly this is where the magic happens!
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science?
YH: I believe that science is accessible to all and that it can be made to be fun and entertaining. I have a real joy inside of me about science that I would love to share. Soapbox Science provides an invaluable opportunity to do this and is a very special forum, which highlights women’s efforts to push forward scientific boundaries. It is a real honour to be a part of this marvellous event and I am enormously inspired by the event organisers who had the vision to create it.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
SS: Now if you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
YH: Breaking down stereotypes of scientists and having people realise that if they ever asked why the sky is blue that they are also scientists at heart.
SS: And lastly, what would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
YH: Be persistent and don’t give up on your dream.