Emma Meehan

Case Study: Emma Meehan

Emma is  Senior Science Technician for Boulby Underground Screening facility (BUGS) which is part of the  Boulby’s Underground Laboratory.

Not every journey into STEM is the same

Emma didn’t follow the typical pathway into a STEM career because she didn’t take an apprenticeship or go to university. Instead, she found her job through her curiosity and desire to learn. Emma joined Boulby laboratory as a part-time cleaner where she met the scientists and started asking lots of questions.

Initially, she didn’t know a lot of science but she had an interest in physiology and biometrics. From asking lots of questions she developed a passion for Physics and even asked to help work on the equipment.

“I started to learn all about Dark Matter and physics and fell in love with it …I became very good at looking after different types of detectors and experiments. So much so that I ended up getting a full-time position and promotion to senior science technician.”

A Laboratory in a mine

Emma works in an unusual environment: a working mine over a kilometre deep underground! She works with astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians and people who love science from all over the world including NASA and ESA.

Emma is observant because she prepares and checks samples which are used to detect rare particle events. She needs to be tenacious as the samples take time and sometimes don’t work.  Emma also works on projects looking for life on alien planets, designing and testing space technology like Mars Rovers and special tools and cameras that go on them.

“My job is absolutely amazing. I get to do so many things that I love, and I learn new things every day … I love working underground, it can be hot, dirty and hard work but it really is a brilliant and exciting place to be.”

During her time at the lab she has fallen in love with Physics, Astrophysics, Geology and more.

Guided tours and awards

Before working at Boulby, Emma used to be a horse-riding instructor. She has always loved teaching people and learning about the way animals think and act. Having this curiosity and passion to share her expertise makes her extremely successful at her job.

“The main thing I brought from that to my job at Boulby is my insatiably curiosity and desire to learn”

Emma imaginative as she creates and gives science tours of the mine where she works to visitors. Her hard work is noticed by others and in 2019 she was awarded a Technician Award from the Institute of Physics!

Family, Animals and Adventure

Emma loves animals and has three horses, four dogs, ferrets, hens, ducks, turkeys and sheep! She enjoys being around animals and wonders about how we can communicate with them based on their ways of thinking. She also enjoys days out with her family!

Emmanuel Olaiya

Case Study: Emmanuel Olaiya

Emmanuel is a particle physicist working at the Particle Physics Department with STFC.

A passion for physics and travelling

Emmanuel studied maths, physics and chemistry for his A-levels. However it was his passion for physics which push him into university and beyond.

“Physics was always my favourite subject and for further education I wanted to do something that I enjoyed so I studied physics at university and then completed a particle physics PhD”

After finishing his degree at university, Emmanuel continued to study towards a PhD in particle physics.  This opportunity  allowed him to travel the world.  He lived in Geneva in  Switzerland for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.

Another one of the great things about my job is it has enabled me to live in other parts of the world.

He lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.

Being a particle physicist

According to Emmanuel the job of a particle physicist can be described as follows:

“I investigate the smallest particles and the forces they interact with. To do this I work with physicists around the world on experiments that detect what happens when you collide particles together at very high energies.”

Emmanuel is logical as he programs hundreds of computers to help him identify particles that are produced in accelerator collisions. He needs to be self- motivated because these experiments create so much data which needs looking through carefully. Emmanuel looks through the data creatively hoping to find missing particles that can explain how massive the Universe is.

“My main ambition is to detect particles that could explain Dark Matter which we believe form the majority of particles out there in space.”

Always learning new things

Emmanuel is always learning physics through his job. He also gets to teach physics and write research papers which he enjoys a lot. Other tasks involve spending time computer programming and working on detector development which he finds very interesting.

“I really love how varied and stimulating my job is.”

Adventuring Outdoors

In his spare time, Emmanuel loves to explore his beautiful surroundings by hiking or cycling. He also loves to go skiing, something that he found he really enjoyed whilst working in Geneva.

XinRan Liu

Case Study: XinRan Liu

XinRan is currently a Research Associate at the School of Physics and Astronomy of the  Edinburgh University

How things work

XinRan was born in China and moved to Edinburgh when he was 7 years old. He has always been curious to find out how everything in the Universe works. To help him find some answers, XinRan studied science at GCSE and A-Levels. He then decided to study Physics at University.

“I have always been interested in learning how things work: Why are we stuck onto Earth? How does the Moon affect us? Why does gravity not suck us into the Sun? How are stars and galaxies are formed?”

A professional hunter of the invisible

XinRan describes himself  as a professional hunter of the invisible. As he further explains,

“Our eyes cannot see tiny cosmic particles which are constantly passing through our planet so particle physics researchers need to use massive detectors that are deep below the Earth’s surface.”

These detectors need to be underground so that they are protected from interference that is present at the surface. These particles rarely interact with anything, so XinRan has to be patient while he waits for them to be detected. He is curious to find out what the particles can tell us about things like what is Dark Matter and origin of the Universe.

Working underground

XinRan job has taken him to travel the world to work however he has always loved Scotland and he is happy to have found a job at the University of Edinburgh. According to him the best part of his job is as follows:

“It has taken me to some of the most spectacular places around the world many of which are deep underground. It has also introduced me to many amazing people along the way.”

XinRan is also passionate about work with young people.  He is recently developed an activity for schools to build mini Mars rovers and exploring the STFC Mars Yard at The Boulby Underground Laboratory.

Getting better at tennis

In his free time XinRan loves reading, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. He also enjoys watching tennis but when it comes to play it he needs to improve his game.

Jens Dopke

Case Study: Jens Dopke

Jens is a senior detector scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

The importance of foreign languages

Jens is originally from Germany, so he had a slightly different education to here in the UK. Jens did the equivalent of A-Levels in Physics and Maths and studied Physics at university. He then completed a PhD in particle physics. Looking back at his time in school he underestimated the importance of learning a new foreign languages.

I was never good at languages, but being able to use them, made me appreciate them a lot more and I noticed that it often takes a lot less than perfection to get somewhere.

Being a senior detector scientist

According to Jens, being a senior detector scientist often involves being curious, thinking outside of the box and coming up with newer, more efficient ways to do experiments. A big part of his time at work is spent designing, assembling and testing devices for particle physics experiments worldwide.

“I often set out, not knowing how to fix a problem or build something and am very gratified if I can live up to the challenge.

There is no place like CERN

CERN  is home to the most advanced particle physics experiments and this is Jens favourite place to work. It reminds him of the collaborative nature of scientific research. He is open-minded about working with new colleagues from different backgrounds.

The solution generally involves interaction with many people […] It often helps me to be able to understand people of different backgrounds and bridging (as best as I can) language barriers”

However CERN is also a beautiful place to visit because is located on the boarder between the Jura mountains in France and the Alps in Switzerland.

Ancient scrolls and hiking

When Jens is not working in particle physics experiments he has an unusual hobby: using physics and computing skills to make burnt ancient scrolls readable!  He also loves hiking:

I love to go hiking, as far and high as possible and whilst I am afraid of sudden drops, I am perfectly ok when I am wearing my safety gear. I love the Scottish highlands, tend to visit early every year and meet interesting new people in the middle of nowhere.

Katy Ellis

Case Study: Katy Ellis

Katy is a computing liaison for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN.

A long road to CERN

Katy took A-levels in Physics, Maths, Economics and business studies and Music. At university she studied Physics and took part in an exchange year in France on a programme called the Erasmus. After this she did her PhD in experimental particle physics on the ATLAS experiment which included a year at CERN.

Computing liaison: getting physics and computing talking the same language

Particle physics experiments need a lot of large computing centres for running simulations and processing lots of data from detectors.  Katy works in a computing centre in the UK where she communicates between computing and physics experts. She looks out for problems with the computing jobs, and thinks of ways to make improvements..

I like when I can make a change to the computing system and see an improvement

In the past Katy has used lots of different types of simulation software for physics experiments and processes. Before her PhD she worked at Qinetiq on materials and EM waves as a stealth scientist. After her PhD she tested simulation software for an oil reservoir and for nuclear fusion power software.

Teamwork is essential

Essential to her job is to work in a strong and supportive team. She enjoys working as an environment where everyone can give and receive support for each other.  That said Katy also has to collaborate with other teams from other projects, all over the world! This means she is also able to travel to a lot of different countries as part of her job to attend conferences and meetings.

I like being part of a team. I like bringing people together and helping them understand each other’s point of view.”

Fun times and friends

Outside of work,  Katy enjoys taking exciting trips with friends and getting together for frequent catch ups. She is also really involved in sports and has been since a young age. Two of the sports that she took up at a young age are Taekwon-Do and skiing.

Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Employer: STFC

Who are they?

The STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) is a world-leading organisation based in the UK. Since its set-up in 2007, it has expanded to become one of Europe’s largest multi-disciplinary research organisations. It consists of Universities, Science Facilities, National Campuses and Young People. The STFC employs almost 2,000 staff and funds around 800 PhDs  in universities.

Their goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people as well as the rest of the world. This is made achievable through the participation and support of over 1,700 academics in astronomy, nuclear and particle physics and around 3,600 people carrying out 2,000 experiments and 900 publications across the UK.

STFC have 5 key establishments: Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Daresbury Laboratory, Chilbolton Observatory and the UK Astronomy Technological Centre.

Careers with STFC

There are many careers with the STFC and many opportunities for people at all stages of their education. They also have apprenticeships available for students leaving school and college to provide an alternate pathway to university. They also have non-STEM jobs.

Some of the different roles with the STFC are:

  • Technicians
  • Science Communicators
  • Physicists
  • Software Engineers
  • Electronic Engineers
  • Project Engineers
  • Data Analysist
  • Finance Advisor
  • Performance Leader
  • Media Manager
  • Public Engagement Officer

You can see what opportunities are currently available with the STFC here.

Science and Maths Links

The STFC are involved in a large amount of STEM and research.

“Our work encompasses everything from the physical, biological and social sciences, to innovation, engineering, medicine and the environment, as well as arts and the humanities.”

Juna Sathian

Juna Sathian in the Lab

Case Study: Dr Juna Sathian

Juna is a photonics physicist working at Northumbria University.

Affordable technology

Photonics is the branch of physics that studies light and the technologies that create it. Juna is curious about finding new applications of photonics technology. She is particularly interested in improving a type of laser which uses alexandrite crystals to make these lasers more affordable and compact. She explains:

This technology should play an important technological role as the next generation of low-cost, high-brightness light sources in a range of scientific, medical and industrial applications.

Masers: microwaves + lasers

After finishing her physics studies in Australia, Juna moved to the UK, where she worked on masers and lasers.  Masers are like lasers but they produce beams of microwaves instead of light.

The downside of masers, Juna says, is that they only work at very cold temperatures. Juna was part of the research team that developed a maser that could operate at room-temperature. This will make masers cheaper and easier to use.

As part of her job, Juna has been teaching physics to undergraduate students for a few years now and really enjoys it:

I love the freedom for scientific research, teaching and mentoring students, all in one job!

Juna’s advice to young people

Focus on your goal and be honest at work, you won’t be disappointed.

Drawing away

Outside of her work, Juna is a big fan of history. She loves reading about past civilisations and visiting places of historic interest. One of the favourite places she visited was the Taj_Mahal.  Juna also enjoys pencil drawing and drew the diagram below showing all different aspects of science and STEM.

Josslynne Masters

Case study: Josslynne Masters

Josslynne is currently a lecturer in Ship Stability, Structures and Maintenance and Celestial navigation at South Tyneside College, where she delivers specialist training to Merchant Navy officers from all around the world. 

From Law to Science

Josslynne initially went to college and studied Law, ICT and Economics for one year. However, inspired by sailors like Ellen Macarthur and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Josslynne’s passion for the sea saw her enrolling in a 3 year course at Warsash Maritime Academy in Portsmouth:

I joined the Merchant Navy as a Deck Cadet training to be a Navigation Officer. […] almost all of our work revolves around science and physics, from working out speeds, turning circles and stopping distances to weather forecasting, chemical and gas cargo care and even fire fighting!

Merchant Navy Deck Officer

The Merchant Navy draws from many different areas and skills as Josslynne mentions:

My role was to ensure the ship, her cargo and all the passengers on board remained safe at all times. I was responsible for the planning of, and maintaining, the safe navigation of the vessel as well as being responsible for the health and safety of everyone onboard. If there is an emergency on a ship you cannot call 999 for help […] When in port I was responsible for the safe loading and unloading of cargo as per company and legal requirements, as well as maintaining communications with other vessels and ports.

Driving Licence for Ships and travelling the world

Josslynne is particularly proud of achieving her qualification as deck officer:

I got a Distinction for my HND (Higher National Diploma) in Nautical Sciences and passed my professional ticket which is a little like a driving licence but for a Ship!

One of the best things about her time as a Deck Officer was being able to travel the world and get paid to do it.  Josslynne has sailed to Asia, remote islands in the Pacific ocean, the Norwegian Fjords and even to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, the most northern settlement in the world.

Josslynne’s advice for young people

Look around, not just at the ‘normal’ or ‘obvious’. Go to as many careers fairs as you can and listen to the types of careers that are around. There will always be a career that you had never heard of and that one might just be the one for you!


Employer: Polyphotonix

Diabetes and sight-loss

Over 320 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. For these people getting a good night’s sleep can contribute to sight-loss.

The cells in a normal retina (the back part of our eyes) adapt to darkness (for example when you close your eyes during sleep) by using additional oxygen from the blood.

However diabetic retinal cells don’t get enough blood flow during the night and therefore suffer from a lack of oxygen.  This can lead to sight-loss.

One way to avoid sight-loss is by preventing dark adaption of the diabetic eye by using light, or in other words, tricking the eye into thinking that it’s daytime even while you are asleep!

What is Polyphotonix?

Polyphotonix is a technology business which develops light treatments for retinal conditions using Organic Light Emitting Devices (OLED). This is the same technology used in mobile phones screens.

Unlike lightbulbs of the past, Light Emitting Diodes (LCDs) don’t get very hot and are more efficient, meaning they don’t waste as much electricity. They can also be made in tiny sizes, allowing them to be used in devices like flat screen televisions, laptops, and wrist watches.

Organic LEDs (OLEDs) can produce brighter light than ordinary LEDS, and they can be used to make light emitting surfaces that are ultra thin, less than 1/100th of the thickness of a human hair. They can also be made into very large flexible sheets which can be used to cover entire walls or ceilings.  These properties of OLEDs mean they can be used for more diverse applications than LEDs.

Polyphotonix has recently launched the Noctura 400 Sleep Mask. The mask uses OLEDs and is a non-invasive treatment for people with diabetes at risk of sight-loss. You can learn more about the mask by watching the video.

PolyPhotonix CEO, Richard Kirk, studied fine-arts in Scotland and worked abroad with fashion names such as Nina Ricci. In a complete career change, he returned to England and saw an opportunity working with OLED’s and their many potential applications in industry and medicine. You can hear him talking about the mask  and how it could save the NHS £1 billion compared to current pharmaceutical treatments on the following video:

This resource was produced as part of the FutureMe project.


Polyphotonix draws from a wide range of different career routes:

  • design engineer
  • software engineer
  • electronic and electrical engineer
  • mathematical modeller
  • quality systems engineer
  • test technician
  • data analyst
  • accountant
  • financial planner
  • sales and customer support
  • doctor

Science and Maths links

Topics in science and maths that link to Polyphotonics and what the company does:

  • Light
  • EM radiation
  • Electric circuits – current and voltage
  • Health and disease
  • Respiration
  • Organs (the eye)


Employer: Kromek Ltd

Who Are They?

Kromek design and make radiation detectors using a crystal called cadmium zinc telluride (CZT).  The detectors can measure the amount and type of radiation in an area or being emitted by an object.  This information can then be processed and analysed by computer.

In medicine, the radiation detectors are used with gamma and X-ray machines to develop an image of internal organs and see what is happening in the body.  They can also be used to measure bone density which is important in diagnosing osteoporosis in older people.

For security, the detectors are small enough that they can be worn by security officers as they go about their normal duties.  Using a smart phone app, the detectors allow a ‘map’ of radiation to be drawn in real-time.  If the levels of radiation go above background radiation, then the detectors let the officer know what the radiation is, and whether it is a threat.

Kromek detectors are also being used to scan and identify potentially explosive liquids at airports.  The detector compares the results of each scan with a database of known compounds (e.g. duty free alcohol, baby food, explosives) to identify liquids which you would not want someone to take on a plane!


Kromek need a range of different roles to design, build, test and sell their detectors. Some staff have PhDs in physics and materials science, but that isn’t necessary to work in a technology company.

Some typical roles are:

  • Gamma Scientist
  • Radiation Detector Physicist
  • Product design engineer
  • Digital marketing
  • Software engineer
  • Process engineer
  • Electronics engineer
  • Buyer
  • Management accountant
  • Test engineer

Science and Maths links

Topics that link to Kromek and what the company does:

  • Nuclear radiation and structure of the atom
  • Electromagnetic spectrum
  • Conductors, semi-conductors and insulators
  • Probability and random numbers