What made you want to be a physicist?
I’ve always been fascinated by science in some way. As a child my interest shifted around and I wanted to be almost anything from a palaeontologist over marine biologist to an astronomer. So the question is really how physics became the focus of my interest. Truth be told, it was Star Trek. 14-year-old me was a bit of a Trekkie and it really bugged me that I couldn’t figure out what photon and quantum torpedoes were supposed to be. So I went to the library and came back with a popular science book on quantum mechanics. At the time I probably understood less than 10% of it, but I was hooked – for good.
If you weren’t a physicist, what would you like to be (and why)?
There’s one other interest that’s been with me almost all my life, and that’s the theatre. When I left school I seriously considered doing drama studies to become a theatre director but physics won the upper hand in the end. Considering how much time I spend doing all sorts of things related to the theatre today, it’s really not hard to imagine doing it as a job for real; so a director is what I might well be in some alternative reality.
Which is the development that you would really like to see in the next 10 years?
I would love to see science become more diverse and inclusive. At most conferences I attend the majority of speakers and attendees are still white and male, and it’s still fairly unusual to find people with (visible) disabilities at such events. Sadly, this won’t happen without some conscious effort, but it looks like we’ve at least started to move in the right direction.
What would be your (physics) superpower?
What’s your favourite (quasi-)particle?
At university I could never really make up my mind if I prefer photons or electrons, until I heard about the plasmon (polariton) and no longer had to choose. And then I spent most of my time in research doing plasmonics, so I now have a special relationship with plasmons.
What is your non-scientifically accurate guilty pleasure (could be film/series/book)?
Other than Star Trek? I love magic realism, especially if it veers into urban fantasy and even more if it’s set in London. I mean, who wouldn’t want to add a layer of the supernatural to the city they live in? At least in their imagination.