MSci Physics, 2017
Research and Development Engineer, UK Atomic Energy Agency
I work shifts on the Active Gas Handling System (a gas processing plant), at the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion reactor. I help to supply the deuterium and tritium fuel which JET uses to create fusion events during its pulses. I also recover and process the exhaust gases from the torus, to complete the fusion fuel cycle and enable re-supply of the tritium which doesn’t get used up during pulses.
What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
I believe that the climate crisis is the most important challenge which humanity faces right now – I love working on fusion technology, as I know that I am helping work towards the solution, and doing it with a lovely team of passionate people!
What made you interested in your current role?
I was inspired by the fusion communications consultant, Dr Melanie Windridge. She runs a fortnightly Fusion News update on Spotify and Youtube, alongside many other blogs and social media channels educating people about fusion energy research. Her passion for fusion energy made me want to be a part of the effort to make it available around the word.
How has your career developed since graduating?
After graduating, I carried out a PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics with the University of Surrey, and the National Physical Laboratory. I worked in laboratories around Europe, using their particle accelerators to carry out experiments to study nuclear fission reactions, by detecting the radiation produced by fission fragments. I then worked for a small fusion technology company, managing their experimental campaign, before I joined the UKAEA.
How did your time at University help you start your career?
I was inspired to pursue a career in nuclear physics by Professor Martin Freer - an incredible lecturer and role model.
Why did you originally apply to the University of Birmingham?
I loved the feeling I got when I attended the open days - I felt at home on the campus. The University looked beautiful and everyone I met was so friendly.
Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?
I was part of AstroSoc throughout my time at university. Going up on the roof of the physics building most weeks, to use the telescopes, was an unforgettable experience.
What advice would you give to current students?
Never feel alone, ask as many questions as you can, and seek help when you need it! Everyone is willing to help - friends, student helpers and your lecturers.
Rhiann speaks about a standout memory
“My favourite moment was actually my graduation ceremony - celebrating years of hard work with all of my friends I made along the way. I felt so proud of what we had achieved, and celebrating that with my friends and family was so special.”