I'm the one on the right....
Favourite Thing: Explaining science to other people. It’s cool to help people understand the world better.
Inverkeithing High School (1979-1985);Edinburgh University(1985-1993)
3 CSYS (Physics, Chem, Maths), 5 Highers (Physics, Chem, Maths, Eng., Geography), 9 O’Grades (including Physics, Chem, Maths and Music). BSc(hons) in Chemistry and a PhD in Chemistry
All sorts of stuff when I was at School and Uni (Sunday Market, Supermarket, British Gas, Football refereeing). then Research Scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in America, before starting work at British Nuclear Fuels from 1996. I am now a scientist at the National Nuclear Laboratory.
I’m a diplomat at the British Embassy in Tokyo
The National Nuclear Laboratory – they sent me to work in Tokyo after the Earthquake in Japan in 2011.
Me and my work
I help Japan to clean up after the Fukushima accident by introducing clever gadgets from the UK.
My official title is “First Secretary (Nuclear)” at the British Embassy in Tokyo.
I normally work for the National Nuclear Laboratory in the UK. However, a few years ago I was lucky enough to take part in an exchange where I worked for two years in a Japanese laboratory. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March 2011, and caused the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station, I was asked to go over to the British Embassy in Tokyo to see where the UK could help. I thought I would only be here for 6 weeks, but I am still working in Tokyo 4 years later.
I have learned some Japanese, and it helps with the communication – if you can talk to someone and trust them, then you are much more likely to believe what they are telling you, and accept the assistance. Because I have a technical knowledge it is easier to speak to the people who run the power station and understand what help they need.
To be honest – I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do when I was a school – so I just focused on doing something I was interested in, and kept doing it to see where it took me. Often I would finish one thing and have no idea what I was going to do next. For example, when I finished University and wasn’t sure what to do, but I got a phone call from someone I’d once met at a conference and they asked if I wanted to work for him in America. I though it sounded quite interesting, so ended up working over there for a couple of years, which was great!
I ended up in Japan because I took the opportunity of going on an exchange programme many years ago – I had no idea it would lead to me working at the British Embassy, it just sounded interesting at the time………
My Typical Day
Talking to Japanese companies to work out how the UK can help them.
It is interesting working somewhere which is 9 hours ahead of the UK. It means that when I go in to work in the morning, everyone has been sending me emails while I have been asleep. I deal with anything urgent, however I know the UK won’t wake up for ages, so nothing needs to be done immediately.
I then usually have meetings with Japanese companies and the Japanese government, discuss what difficulties they have and if we have any companies or organisations which can help.
I lot of the work I do is about meeting people, and connecting people. I have to make the meetings interesting so that they want to hear more about what the UK can do to help. Because I am working at the British Embassy, I am able to contact many people in the UK, and connect them with the right people in Japan. I have managed to get the UK and Japan to sign a number of agreements which means the right people meet each other regularly.
I often organise big meetings – which is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Imagine organising a party with 150 people who don’t speak the same language. You needs to make sure there are interpreters, and enough space for everyone, as well as making sure they are fed, and don’t get lost trying to find the venue….
Getting people to meet and interact is just as difficult for adults as it is for teenagers, it can sometime be like those parties you go to when all the boys stand against one wall and the girls stand against the other…
I have developed some skills to get the scientists from the UK and Japan to start talking, and create the right atmosphere to get people to start working together.
What I'd do with the money
Pay for an interpreter so we can have a SkyPe call between a school near Fukushima Dai-ichi and a school near a British nuclear facility so they can share their experiences.
People don’t really understand nuclear energy, and there is a lot of misunderstanding, especially after the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident. It would be great for people who live near nuclear facilities to be able to talk to each other and share their understanding. They can then work together to find out the answers for themselves. I’d like to think that we could start something which could include people doing experiments in schools in the UK and Japan, and sharing the results.
I would set up a video call, and have an interpreter there to make communication easier.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Always have fun
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Smoked Sausage Supper with brown sauce (Sausage and chips)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Performed in a comedy double act at the Edinburgh Fringe
What did you want to be after you left school?
An actor or a cricketer!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the coolest job related to physics you've come across?
The job I have now is pretty cool, but any job working on a big international project where you are doing stuff no-one has ever done before would be the biggest buzz.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. No regrets 2.Enjoy life 3. See Dunfermline Athletic win the Scottish Cup
Tell us a joke.
What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup? Most people can roast beef……
What do you think is the best physics discovery in history?
Nuclear Fission – how can you split something that small!