PhD Student, Theory of Condensed Matter, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge
CSaP-Government Secondee, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (2014)
Ever since I was at school I've been fascinated by the counter-intuitive nature of quantum mechanics and wanted to learn more about it. I feel extremely privileged to be able to do this in my role as a PhD student in the Theory of Condensed Matter group at Cambridge, where I am researching the potential role of quantum effects in photosynthesis. The idea that something as counter-intuitive as quantum physics is essential to so many everyday objects and processes is something I still find extremely exciting.
I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to undertake a secondment at BIS working on the UK's Quantum Technologies Programme, arranged through CSaP. The QT Programme has £270 million of funding over 5 years to develop Quantum Technologies in the UK via a national network of Quantum Hubs, high level skills provision and an innovation programme. My role has been very varied, involving a range of activities including writing papers for the UK QT Strategic Advisory Board, bench-marking the UK against the rest of the world for quantum technologies and keeping the Science Minister up to date on progress in the QT Programme.
My experience at BIS has definitely lived up to my expectations. It has been a great opportunity to understand more about the complex relationship between policy and science as well as the way in which science research is funded both in the UK and more widely in Europe. It has also allowed me to experience working outside of academia but still with a strong focus on science.
However, I think one of the most valuable aspects of my secondment has been the wider context it has given to my own research. It has given me the chance to learn more about the breadth of work on quantum technologies taking place across the UK. I also now have a much greater understanding of the difficulties involved in transferring scientific research into a range of technologies and ultimately industries, which I hadn't considered in much depth before.
Finally, I've been able to gain direct experience of how a range of organisations in this area work, including Innovate UK and EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) who are both heavily involved with the Quantum Technology programme.
Overall, I would definitely recommend undertaking a secondment at BIS. For me it has been a fantastic way to balance the inevitably very specialised nature of my PhD studies with a much broader view of research and policy in the UK.
View Sarah's profile here.