I use my background in soft condensed matter and self-assembly to make nanostructures which I use for imaging processes happening on the nanoscale.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring physicists?
First investigate whether you enjoy research. A PhD entails a training to be an independent scientific researcher, so there is no preset ‘program’ as for a degree. The easiest way to see if you like research is of course via a placement. If you enjoy it, go for it! I thoroughly enjoy what I do; the excitement of finding something new, and the freedom and variety this work affords. But it requires a lot of hard effort. Do be prepared that a career in science comes with many targets to be hit all the time, and often comes with some periods of job insecurity.
Your research can change according to the most interesting directions that emerge. So, if your project is not immediately how you had envisioned it: don’t worry, this is a journey! Your professor will advise you on interesting paths based on their knowledge and expertise in the field. But equally, you need to plot your own course through science! Only you can carve out your path. Do not compare yourself too much to others; it can be hard not to be intimidated by other people’s successes, but this is about your growth. Rely on your own strength.
Your career is also an opportunity to grow as a person, so try to find a great environment where to do so. And you also shape the environment you are in! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and to help others. Science is a collaborative effort. I have had absolutely fantastic colleagues in all groups I have been part of. They kept me going in trying times, and I learned so much from them. That is another great joy of working in science; you get to meet so many wonderful and bright people.
Anything else you'd like to share with us?
I am also the scientific coordinator of a large interdisciplinary consortium, bringing together different research groups to explore how we can control light on the nanoscale.