Calday Grange Grammar School (Wirral), Oxford University (82-85), Durham University (85-88)
Degree in physics and a PhD
Oxford, Princeton USA, CERN Geneva
Professor of Physics
Favourite thing to do in my job: To understand
I try to find out how the universe works at the most basic level
I am a theoretical physicist, so that means that instead of doing experiments I work on the theories that lie behind things. For example, Peter Higgs who has just won the Nobel Prize for Physics thought up the idea of his famous particle, the Higgs Boson, in the 1960’s and it’s taken till 2012 to actually discover the particle. That’s the dream for a theorist.
My own area of interest is how to take all the current theories and put them together in one single framework. This means taking Einstein’s theory of gravity that describes the universe on large scales and putting it together with quantum theory that describes the universe on small scales. That’s a very hard job because they don’t easily go together. There are 2 places in the universe where it’s important to do this to understand what’s going on, firstly at the big bang when the universe was tiny and very hot and secondly inside black holes. Black holes are fascinating because not only are they a place where our current theories are struggling to work but now we know that the universe is full of them. For instance there’s one at the centre of our own galaxy.
My Typical Day
Go on-line, read today’s scientific papers, email co-workers to discuss latest ideas, give a lecture, drink lots of coffee, play guitar, so some Tai Chi Chuan, play taxi driver for kids
I spend some of my time teaching physics to university students.
I spend a lot of time reading the latest work on-line .
I spend a lot of time discussing physics with my work colleagues, often over email or Skype.
I spend a lot of time drinking coffee, chatting about physics or thinking.
I spend some time writing up work usually with other people.
Unfortunately I have to spend some time on committees for the university or for the research councils.
When I can I travel to give seminars or attend conferences often in some nice places!
What I'd do with the prize money
I will send it to a good educational charity.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
guitarist, mountain-climber, dad
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Worked for 2 years at CERN in Geneva (good skiing)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
The need to understand how things work
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Had a bit of a tame “fight” with someone who turned out to be a best friend
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
No idea, maybe an architect
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Mark Knopfler, the genius behind Dire Straits, a finger-picker so my kind of guitarist
What's your favourite food?
Spanish, I work a lot with Spanish physicists just for seafood!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
My next paper will be the big one, and the one after that, and wife will let me buy an original Gibson guitar
Tell us a joke.
(This is lame but has suitable language) What did Donald Duck say in physics class? Quark, quark, quark!