Name: Dr Melanie Windridge
Research institution: Application Specialist (Physics) at Iprova Sarl
Academic visitor at Imperial College London, Physics
Research career length: 4 years
Research Council: Previously funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: London, England
Salary: £30-34k + bonuses
Brief summary of research: I work for an engineering Intellectual Property company. I come up with invention ideas for clients
A-levels: Physics, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Economics
MSci in Physics with year in Europe, University of Bristol and Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble, France
PhD in Plasma physics (researching fusion energy), Imperial College London
Physics consultant - Application Specialist for Iprova Sarl
Freelance science communicator. Activities included:
Intern in plasma physics at Ecole Federale Polytechnique de Lausanne, Switzerland
PhD in Plasma Physics at Imperial College London working at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Abingdon
Independent travel interspersed with bouts of working, usually as an Accounts Assistant, twice at fashion agency 1927 London and once at media agency Active International in Sydney, Australia
University of Bristol, Physics
As an update, I am now a freelance physicist and communicator. Some of my science communication activities are provided in the bullet list in ‘My Story’. I did mainly science communication work for the first two years after PhD graduation, partly due to chance and opportunities. Now the balance has shifted slightly and I am doing more of the physics consultancy, but I continue the science communication to a lesser degree. I like having the flexibility to choose. Many people ask me, “How can you be a freelance physicist?” I admit it’s not the conventional – nor the easiest – way, but it’s the way it happened for me and I actually rather like it!
Please give us a description of your job / research, and tell us what inspired you to do what you're doing...
My work involves researching fusion energy at Culham Science Centre. I did my Undergraduate at Bristol and then took three years out before starting my PhD. I didn't mean to, I just didn't think I wanted to do a PhD when I finished my degree. So I spent more than two years travelling and working and still thinking about Physics, then just over six months working at the Swiss Plasma Physics institute in Lausanne before starting my PhD.
Describe your typical day...
My work involves computer modelling of plasma disruptions in the MAST tokamak. A tokamak is a ring-shaped machine that uses magnetic fields to trap very hot plasma (ionised gas hotter than the centre of the sun) so that fusion reactions can occur. The plasma is very turbulent and doesn't want to stay trapped, so sometimes the plasma ring will move in the machine and hit the walls, at which point it cools down and everything stops (a disruption). I use computer simulations to study the stability of the plasma to this movement and the consequences, so most of my time is spent running these simulations and analysing the results. That said, I don't really have a typical "day in the life". I like variety, so some days I'll go to Imperial, where I'm more likely to do some writing, or read a paper, or I'll go and do something science-communication-related instead.
Do you have a 'pet project'?
I love writing.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love skiing and hiking and I also like running and yoga. I travel a lot and spend too much time packing. I always wish I had more time to read.
Imperial College London at Culham Science Centre
Skiing, hiking, running, yoga, travelling