What a great competition!
Ashbourne Community School 2003-2009, DCU Applied Physics 2009-2013, DCU NCPST 2013-Present
B.Sc Applied Physics, working towards a PhD
Dixons Retail Group, Odenberg Engineering (Tomra), NCPST DCU
PhD Student in NCPST DCU
I’m a messer at heart and love to play around with optics and lasers, I can be a bit eccentric at times.
Hi there, I’m Stephen
I’m a 26 year old PhD student in DCU (Dublin City University). I love to keep busy and active,although you might not think it looking at me sometimes. I go the gym 2-3 times a week along with Tae Kwon Do training once a week. I also spend my spare time go-karting and demonstrating physics as part of the Physics Busking team. When I’m not active I’m either watching tv, playing PS4 or sleeping.
I love science It’s always been my favorite subject. Now that I am a scientist I get access to lots of equipment to play with, to see how different things work and more importantly what cool things you can do with them! Science is about investigation and trying new things and I think this is what makes it so interesting and appealing to me.
I am a SFI research student working towards a PhD in laser plasma and spectroscopy. Most people dont really know what that means when I tell them, but they have no idea what they’re missing!
My work is on a technique called Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy but we just call it ‘LIBS’ for short. The basic idea is that if you hit a sample with a powerful laser you will create a tiny explosion or ‘plasma’ and this plasma gives off light of different colours.
These colours are like fingerprints, each type of atom has its own set of fingerprints, and we call the analysis of light to look for these fingerprints ‘spectroscopy’.
So when the plasma gives off light, we use spectroscopy to see which fingerprints are present and hence which different atoms are inside the sample. LIBS allows us to determine what a sample is made of!
LIBS is used in many different ways: to help with recycling, testing farming soils, to even looking for the building blocks of life on Mars!
You can see more of the specifics on my work in these videos:
Me in the lab with my sample chamber
My Spectrometer looking at a laser plasma
An example of some optics in our labs
My Typical Day
My typical day is the ticking of a laser, the flash plasma, the glow of a computer screen… take all this and add a splash of procrastination thrown in
When working in science every day can hold different tasks, problems and things to do, but typically my day starts with warming up the laser. Once warmed up we can start up the rest of the equipment and get ready to start firing.
Depending on the experiment I run, I may need to take just a few shots or thousands of shots on a target or set of targets, this can take either all day or just the morning. Once the data is taken you have to analyse it all, as this can be time consuming I write computer codes to open and analyse the data and display the information back for the final check to see if it was successful. In science it is often not successful but this is still just as important a result and you must learn to think how to make it successful!
Running experiments my time is mostly spent in the lab but I also spend a lot of time in the office which I share with six other PhD students. We all like to chat and have fun so depending on how busy you are you might be best staying in the lab to get work done.
What I'd do with the prize money
One of the best manipulation of light is 3D movies, I would like to create a demo kit that shows this fascinating manipulation of light we use to create 3D movies
I would really love to entirely fill my co-workers lab with those Styrofoam packaging peanuts. But alas, although a great idea, that doesn’t really have much to do with public engagement. As such I would like to spend it on an optics demo kit, specifically how 3D movies work.
3D movies are one of the best manipulation of light to trick our brains into believing an image is jumping out of the screen. But how they work is rather interesting, it requires some pretty neat control of light. I would like to build a demo kit that could be used to tech people these tricks and the science behind them.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Passionate Charismatic Messer
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nope, I knew how to get away with it
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Bo Burnham (Currently)
What's your favourite food?
A tie between Taco Fries and Buffalo Wings
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I don’t want to go into too much detail here but I once found myself in a giant freezer with two Olympic athletes in just our boxers
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. Telekinetic powers. 2. **Inappropriate response deleted** 3. To be successful and happy in life.
Tell us a joke.
When I finish my PhD I might get a job washing mirrors…. It’s something I could really SEE myself doing