Backstage Science: Nanoscience Q & A

Sean Langridge tells us a bit about being a scientist at ISIS.

Sean Langridge:  “My name is Sean Langridge and I am the group leader for the Large Scales Structures group at ISIS”.

Best and worst parts of the job?

“I guess the best thing is that I never know what my job is going to entail. We work with a wide number of groups, both academics and industrialists, not only within Europe but through Europe, the US and beyond. So I think that the real excitement about what we do is just not knowing what is going to come next. Actually from that uncertainty you hopefully make new connections, new discoveries and that’s what’s really great. I guess what’s not so great are the times when we spend long hours on the beamlines, so experiments are scheduled over twenty-four hours for maybe two, three, four, five days at a time. Trying to find the motivation at two or three o clock in the morning to think hard and make another measurement is probably the hardest part of what we do”.

 

Why is your work important?

“We are a nanoscience group and we want to understand materials at the nanoscale. Our ambition is that by having this detailed, precise information, we have things that are useful to groups in trying to understand why their systems behave in the way that they do. They are useful to theoretical groups who test can their theoretical models against our practical experimental data and ideally, we would like to create a virtuous circle where we can study material, characterise them, use that information as a test against theories. That goes back then to the people who grow or fabricate the samples, produce a new sample with better qualities, we can they characterise it, and hopefully this is a way in which we can generate new materials and really get to grips with the exciting and fundamental properties that happens only when you shrink materials down to the nanoscale” .

Advice to inspiring scientists:

“I think it is to always ask questions. I think you should never take anything for granted. One of the exciting things you learn as a scientist is that there are no right or wrong answers. You can keep asking questions and eventually, even the world’s experts will run out of answers. I think that’s really exciting, we are always going to try to discover new information, so keep that enthusiasm, keep asking questions and do not be afraid to ask questions because its only by asking simple questions do you actually get to the heart of very complex problems”.

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