Name: Dr Lara Bogart
Research institution: Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool
Research career length: 6 years
Research Council: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: Liverpool, England
Brief summary of research: I am part of a team developing magnetic nanoparticles that can be used to label stem cells. In particular, I am developing microscopes that will allow us to see where these particles go in cells, whether their presence in the cell is toxic, and how long they remain magnetic for once within cells. This is an important step that will allow the use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to ‘see’ and track precisely where stem cells go in the body once they have been administered to patients.
A-levels: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics
MSc in Theoretical Physics at Durham University
PhD in Physics at Durham University
Undergraduate Masters at Durham University
PhD at Durham University
Post Doctoral Research Associate at University of Liverpool
Please give us a description of your job / research, and tell us what inspired you to do what you're doing...
I am involved in research into the fundamental behaviour of magnetism at the nanoscale level. By understanding the physics of the behaviour of ferromagnetic thin films at critical length scales (tens to hundreds of nanometres) we can make advances in technology, and can control the magnetic properties to get the behaviour we desire for applications by exploiting our knowledge and understanding of these processes. This area of research is sometimes referred to as 'spintronics' as we are interested in utilising the spin of the electron and using this to store information as opposed to just its charge (as is used in current conventional electronic devices). When I was younger I was fascinated by space and really wanted to be an astronaut; I even set my sights on becoming the first woman on the Moon and Mars. However, I stopped growing at just under 5 foot which, combined with my rubbish eyes, meant I would never meet the entry requirements and kind of killed off the dream of going into space! It didn't stop me from enjoying science at school, and after my GCSE's I decided to study them all to A Level as I knew that this would give me lots of opportunities in the future.
I decided to continue to study Physics at university as I felt like there was so much more I had to learn and was armed with hundreds of unanswered questions: I wanted to know everything from understanding the big bang and the intricate processes that occur within stars, to quantum mechanics and the inner workings of the atom. I knew it would be hard, but I enjoyed it and knew that if I worked hard I could play harder! (I was very good at playing way too hard!). The course was really intense, and I often struggled through some of the abstract concepts, but I enjoyed it and have always been determined – if other people can understand it, then I won't stop until I do too! It's a great feeling to finally 'get it', and it's that feeling that makes it worthwhile. Plus, I knew that if I'd had enough of physics at the end of my degree, that I'd have picked up some great skills that would be useful for all sorts of more 'conventional' jobs if I decided that was what I wanted. At the end of my degree, however, I found I wasn't ready to stop learning about physics and was keen to get my teeth stuck into my own research.
I'm now three years into my PhD and although I'm regularly stumped by some of the physics I work on, I'm still as keen as ever and am not any closer in applying for that 'conventional' job! I have always said I will stay studying science as long as I find it fun and can still understand it, and after almost seven years of physics I am still hungry to learn more.
What do you love most about science / engineering or maths?
All clichés aside, I love the fact that my research actually makes a difference to people in the field. I've published papers in journals that may be read by students in 50 years, and it's great to know that my work contributes to advances in our understanding of nanomagnetism.
Where I live...
Home is what keeps me sane! I'm from Crosby, a suburb in the north of Liverpool. I'm a real homebody and love to go home and spend time relaxing with my family on weekends. My little brother is nearly 10 years old so it's good to go home to de-physics myself and re-capture my youth playing computer games with him (although embarrassingly I don't have to pretend to let him win these days…)
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I'm probably one of the most unconventional physicists you'll ever meet. I love shopping, and my weakness is definitely shoes and I own way too many pairs of very girly shoes. I also have a severe weakness for jewellery, dresses and, well I just love shopping! I love playing games too and when I'm at home I can be regularly found playing Guitar Hero with my brother Calum – I'm sure the neighbours love our versions of the classics! I'm also a fairly big football fan and really enjoy playing fantasy football – my boyfriend and I are fairly competitive so I'm determined to beat him this year. When I can spare the time (and the money) I love travelling and have been to some lovely places including the Lake District, Pembrokeshire, Berlin and Luxor, but mostly I love to just listen to music and spend time with my boyfriend Chris, my friends and family.
Physics, more specifically nanomagnetism
PhD Research Student
Shopping, football, travelling, listening to music, spending time with friends and family
This career case study originally appeared on the NOISE (New Outlooks in Science & Engineering) webpage on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) website. NOISE is a UK-wide initiative to promote science and engineering. Originally funded by EPSRC, NOISE is now an independent platform for early career researchers to engage with the general public about the importance of research and inspire your people to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.