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Ultraviolet and Infrared: Laser Science role models

You might have thought lasers mostly belong in sci-fi films, but the study of lasers is helping people! From new ways to take pictures of the human body to giant lasers that might help us generate electricity or even find out more about the universe, they are crucial.

Name: Dr Kate Lancaster.

Job: Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of York.

What three words would you use to describe yourself? Silly, outgoing, positive.

How did you get to where you are now?
By accident! I liked working with lasers and it turns out you can use very high-power lasers to make mini suns in the laboratory as a way of generating clean energy. I couldn’t have imagined that as a job, but I’m very pleased it exists.

What is the best thing about what you do?
Because I use the world’s most powerful lasers, I get to travel all round the world to use them. I’ve been to lots of countries, including Japan, China, Malaysia, the US, Romania, Italy and many more!

Is your job hard or dangerous or fun?
My job can be hard, but that’s the fun bit. Nothing worth doing is ever easy and it’s the challenge of discovering things for the first time that is both hard and fun. My job could be dangerous but because of lots of safety measures (like wearing laser goggles over your eyes), we are very safe.

Name: Rachel Lennon.

Job: Postgraduate Researcher, University of Exeter.

Hobbies: Playing the clarinet, saxophone and flute in jazz bands and orchestras.

How did you get where you are now?
I always wanted to use science to help people. I used to think that meant being a medical doctor in a hospital but then I realised I could do other kinds of science – like making sure the machines that they use in hospitals and the treatments given to patients work properly.

How does your job help people?
I work with lasers – powerful beams of light – which can be used to take pictures inside your body if you’re ill or hurt. The problem is that light doesn’t travel through skin! I’m working on ways to solve this problem.

What’s the best thing about what you do?
I work in an amazing laser laboratory and do lots of experiments! I don’t wear a white coat but I wear cool goggles that protect my eyes from being damaged by the laser.

IOP laser science role models sticker showing safety glasses