Zachary Williamson

Favourite Thing: Sit in my experiment’s control room and pretend I’m a mad scientist overlord.



I studied for my masters degree in particle physics at the University of Southampton


MPhys in Particle Physics from the University of Southampton, first class with honors

Work History:

MDBA Missile Systems, University of Southampton’s Astronomy Department, University of Oxford’s Physics Department. Also a ticket collector on HMS Belfast.

Current Job:

I am a postgraduate researcher at the Oxford University’s Physics Department


Oxford University

Me and my work

I research at an atom smasher in Japan

My Typical Day

Travel to my university, attend meetings, write analysis programs

When I’m living in Oxford, my typical day involves writing analysis programs with my computer. I work in an office with five of my friends and colleagues; it’s a fun and sometimes rowdy place to work and I enjoy it immensely. The data that our experiment in Japan collects is sent to Oxford, and I write programs to try and make sense of the numbers.


I also fly out to Japan three times a year to attend meetings with the rest of our research group. There are about 600 of us spread out all over the world, so we meet up in Japan to exchange ideas and discoveries. When I’m there I also spend some time looking after the experiment from the control room. Our experiment is extremely delicate and needs 24/7 care, and all 600 of us take turns to look after it.

What I'd do with the money

I run a website about my work, I’d use the money to expand it.

I would like to make a small podcast series about the history of science, from antiquity to the modern age. The people behind great discoveries have always fascinated me and there are many interesting tales to tell about their lives. If I won the competition I would use the money to buy recording equipment; there’s nothing worse than trying to listen to somebody talk for hours using a scratchy cheap microphone!

I also run a website about my research at I would set some money aside to pay for website hosting fees and, if there was any left, perhaps pay for some web advertising.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious and happy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Lumineers. My favourite band changes often though

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Visited the top of the Eiffel Tower with my girlfriend.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not that I can remember. I slept a lot in front of my teachers, if that counts.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Chemisty! I found school physics a bit dull, chemistry experiments were a lot more fun.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I’m still quite young, and can’t claim to have many achievements under my belt! Giving a talk at the Institute of Physics, and seeing my name on a research paper were two moments I’m quite proud of.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

When I was younger I read a lot about Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, which certainly inspired me.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I’ve never really given this question much thought! I would probably be a programmer of some sort.

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

That’s a hard one. If I could only wish things for myself, and not others, they would be: a limitless ability to absorb new knowledge, a giant pile of money and perfect health.

Tell us a joke.

A neutron walks into a bar, orders a drink and asks how much it costs, to which the barman replies, “For you, no charge.”

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is where I do my research! I work in an office at Oxford University. My experiment is based in Japan, and I tinker with the data it collects.


And this is the experiment! I visit it two or three times a year to help look after it and make sure it doesn’t break down


Closeup of one of my desks and some electronics I was tinkering with. The electronics isn’t related to my work, but it was in my office so it counts, right? right?