Never let anyone underestimate you – Meet Maddy Nichols

IMG_2325white1Maddy Nichols is a first year PhD student at the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials.  She works in the area of science on the nanoscale – 1000x smaller than the width of your hair!  It’s an interesting area to investigate as the properties of materials change a lot and they can behave very unexpectedly when they become very tiny.  Nanoscience combines aspects of all science and engineering areas so Maddy is currently based between chemistry, physics and engineering for her project.  Come meet Maddy at our Bristol event on saturday the 16th of July


SS: Maddy, how did you get to your current position?

MN: At school I loved physic and maths which eventually lead to me choosing a physics degree at University of Manchester, with a year abroad studying in California!  Decided I really liked research During my masters year where I undertook a research project I discovered that I really enjoyed doing research, a whole lot more than lectures.  So I decided to do a PhD.  I was doing some work in nanotechnology which meant that a Doctoral Training Centre in Nanoscience appealed.  Excitingly I managed to secure a place on the Functional Nanomaterials Doctoral Training Centre.  As part of the program I have tried out several different projects, none of them particularly physics related which was a novelty. Here I am now primarily working in Chemistry!
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

MN: I have always enjoyed learning about the world around us.  It always helps if you have enthusiastic science teachers at school! When it came to deciding on further education I took a lab tour in the physics department and it was seeing the experiments that were part of the course that made me settle on physics and I’ve never looked back.  It’s pretty awesome that you’re determining universal constants using the same methods that some scientists came up with many years ago.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

MN: For me, I am always super excited by the thought that I’m seeing and doing stuff that nobody has done before.  When you try out something new and get it to work in a way you’re hoping for, it’s very exhilarating!
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

MN: It’s important that everyone can get a chance to find out about the work going on at the universities in their cities.  It’s also important to abolish the stereotypes of scientists that people might hold, so that it doesn’t play any part in putting children off pursuing science at a higher level.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?

MN: Adrenaline-fuelled
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

MN: I would like everything to be more transparent, sharing knowledge and expertise across the board.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?

MN: I’m hoping for some advice myself! But for anyone considering a PhD, choose something that you find interesting and go all out to get a position doing it. Never let anyone underestimate you and the contribution you will bring.


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