Unviersity of Malta (2009-2014)
B.Sc (Hons) in Maths and Physics, M.Sc in Maths, TEFL Cert.
Worked as an English teacher at WSE (Munich) and Skylark (Malta), as an extra on the set of World War Z and as a barista at The Donut Factor (Malta)
I’m currently doing a Phd semi-successfully.
Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (Portsmouth)
Favourite thing to do in my job: Thinking about the biggest unanswered questions and open mysteries in Science, then dreaming up the most beautiful possible solutions to those problems.
Testing if the gravity that ties us to Earth works the same as the gravity that ties thousands of galaxies together.
I’m working on writing a program that will test a large set of gravity theories using something called redshift space distortions. In this context, redshift space distortions are an effect we see when looking at groups of thousands of galaxies caused by their individual movement, a movement caused in turn by gravitational attraction.
The reason we want to test new theories of gravity is because our current theory ONLY works as well as it does if we include a mysterious, ubiquitous and possibly frightening ‘dark energy’ which is many times more dominant than matter in the universe. The search is for a new theory that would work without a need for this unseen elephant in the tiny tiny room.
Thinking about the biggest unanswered questions and open mysteries in Science, then dreaming up the most beautiful possible solutions to those problems.
My Typical Day
Improving my program, reading up on new and exciting science and cooking up new ways to prank my office mates.
My typical day would start early with a game of squash, volleyball or football (squash being my favorite!). I’d then go home, prepare lunch – I very much enjoy cooking and always bring my own food to work- and then head to work, getting in anywhere between 10am-12pm.
I usually have a chat with people in my office when I get in while making a cup of tea. We talk about all sorts of things from philosophy to society to science to mushrooms. I’d sit at my desk and check emails, write up a list of things to do that day (I usually include some very easy things such as ‘check emails’ so I get to cross them out and feel productive hehe).
Throughout the day I’ll work through my list which will include things like meetings, talks, fixing a bug in my code, reading a scientific paper that’s been collecting dust on my desk. The great thing about the institute I work at is there is always a meeting or talk breaking up desk work, with topics such as the universe many fractions of a second after the beginning of time, the creation of matter and it’s evolution into galaxies, simulating dark matter among many others. The latest talk I went to was on how the earliest emitted light, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), is bent because of the matter in the universe and how we can use that to test gravity.
Because I usually arrive at the office late, I stay past most of my office mates giving me the great opportunity to prank them. Pranks I’ve pulled in the past include wrapping a friend’s desk in wrapping paper, barring a friends desk with chairs and hiding little pictures of David Hasslehoff around the office.
In the evening I’ll either go to a pub showing live music with some friends, spend time playing guitar at home or skype/write letters to friends/family abroad.
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d use the money to work on a cosmic expansion demonstration I’ve been meaning to make for months.
The demonstration I have in mind will be quite elaborate so I’ll provide a nutshell version (which is essentially all I have at this point!). It will involve a large wooden box with one side removed. Inside a number of tiny lights will be strung up in such a way that they will start at the center of the box and as the demonstration progresses will all move further away from one another.
An added feature would be for the lights to shift in color as they move illustrating how observed light loses energy as space expands (an effect known as redshift).
Another way I’d possibly spend the money is on organizing a cosmology bake-off at my home institute. I’m a fairly keen baker of sweets (more so in the past than present) so that would be something I’d enjoy very much I think.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, thoughtful and sensitive.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Remain open minded and unindoctrinated.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
The night’s sky and my black labrador, Che.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, for missing months worth of classes!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Honestly, a farmer.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I never answer this question successfully. Porcupine tree, Tool, Lucy Rose, Daughter, Pearl Jam ….
What's your favourite food?
Historically it has to be banoffee pie.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Hands down, Snowboarding.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Keep my health, energy and open mindedness with age, make a noteworthy contribution to science and own a cottage in the countryside.
Tell us a joke.
Two fish swim into a wall. One turns to the other and says “Dam!”