Natalie Garrett

I am thrilled to have won, thank you so much everyone who voted for me! You can still ask questions for the next week I think, so please do ask away!

Favourite Thing: Getting to do experiments in the laboratory!



2006-2010: PhD in Physics at University of Exeter. 2002-2006: MPhys degree in Physics with Medical Physics at University of Exeter. A-Levels and GCSEs: Cranbrook School, Cranbrook, Kent


PhD, MPhys, A-Levels (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics AS)

Work History:

2010-today: University of Exeter. Before that, I did summer jobs as a medical secretary in Exeter during my undergraduate degree. Before THAT I had a few temp jobs, including: barmaid, office administrative assistant, admissions co-ordinator for a language school. The weirdest job I had was one week of making squishy mouse mats to promote a train ticket website.

Current Job:

Research Scientist


University of Exeter

Me and my work

I use lasers to look at the paths drugs take inside the body.

My Typical Day

A pleasant country walk to the lab, check my emails, run some experiments, analyse some data, have a few meetings, teaching and training other lab users, drink lots of tea!

What I'd do with the money

I want to expand my bag of tricks for outreach talks to include more exciting experiments to bring to schools. I want to make 3D printed smartphone adapters that make the smartphone camera into a microscope, to give to schoolkids (scroll down to the bottom of this page for more info on that and pics!)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Innovative, Quirky, Practical

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Pain of Salvation (they’re like me, they take an experimental approach to their work, each album seems to be in a different style to the next)

What's your favourite food?

A roast dinner. My friends tell me it doesn’t count if there’s no meat (I’m vegetarian) but roast potatoes and gravy have universal appeal!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I love cryogens! Whenever we get a delivery with dry ice (some things we buy need to be kept very cold while they’re in the post, and dry ice is solid CO2 which is about -80 Celcius), it’s always a lot of fun to play (ahem, I mean seriously experiment) with it, like adding it to soapy water to make a huge mess of smoky-looking bubbles. I’ve taken a lot of cool photographs of things with dry ice involved.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist of some kind, but I had no idea what discipline to choose – this is why I took a gap year to figure out my options for University.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really – I was suspended once but I never had a detention in my life. I was usually very good at pushing things to the limit of what I could get away with.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics (I had a great teacher)

What's the coolest job related to physics you've come across?

Astronaut, definitely. Maybe one day I’ll get to go into space :)

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Assuming I can’t be sneaky and wish for more wishes, I’d wish for: 1) A billionaire benefactor to pay for my own laboratory; 2) An end to world suffering (but you have to be careful how you word these wishes, I’ve seen the films where someone wished this and then suddenly everyone’s dead…), 3) The ability to teleport myself and other people/objects. Seriously, I am so done with having to spend time and money travelling!

Tell us a joke.

I asked the librarian if she had the book about Pavlov’s dog Schrödinger’s cat. She said it rang a bell, but she didn’t know if it was there or not.

What do you think is the best physics discovery in history?

There have been a lot, but I’d say that Newton’s Laws of Motion are pretty fundamental and important, so I give them my vote!

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here I am in the laser laboratory! If you look closely, you’ll see I’m wearing gloves, a lab coat, and safety goggles. This clothing is to protect myself from the laser (it could blind me if I wasn’t wearing the goggles) and from any dangerous/messy chemicals.


Safety is very important. Because of how bright and powerful the lasers are, we have to make sure that people can’t just accidentally wander into the laboratory. So, we have a secret door code that you have to type to unlock the door. Also, we have a sign that lets people know if the lasers are turned on, so they know to put goggles on before coming in.


The laser laboratory and all the equipment inside it cost over a million pounds! This isn’t something you can do as a hobby, not unless you’re seriously loaded. One of the most fun lasers in the laboratory is this one, which is green light. Light behaves like a wave (like the waves you see on the sea) and you can measure the distance between the peaks of the wave. Green light has a shorter distance between the peaks than red light does. In this picture, I’m posing next to a green laser that has a wavelength of 516 nm. A nanometer is 0.000000001 meters – pretty small! To put that into context, on average, human beards grow about 5 nanometers every second. I don’t know what you can do with that information but I think it’s fun to know.


This isn’t really work related, but sometimes I get to use dry ice in my work (the stuff that is sometimes used at concerts to make smokey effects) and that means that when I’ve finished my work for the day, I can take cool pictures like this one:


If I win, I will use the money to 3D print some of these:


This is a small plastic clip with a tiny glass bead in it. You slip it on top of your camera on your smartphone and hey presto! The bead acts like a lens, and turns your smartphone into a microscope. Pretty awesome, eh? They’re relatively cheap to make, so I could make hundreds and give them out to schools so that lots and lots of kids can do microscopy whenever they want to.

This is a picture I took with my smartphone of a strand of my own hair:



If you want to see more about what I do, check out my staff profile page for the place I work: