When asked what her advice to a budding young scientist would be, Sarah replied “Don't turn something down because you think it sounds scary." Which is exactly how she has ended up where she is today. She never expected to go down the path that led to becoming the Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) Group Leader, and on to be a division head at ISIS. From childhood she expected to leave education at 16 to get a job. However, her love of science and supportive family and teachers pulled her through achievement after achievement until she found herself Dr Rogers.
“At school there were lots of people who like to build things. I just wanted to take things apart, and I didn't much care if I couldn't put it back together again." Sarah described “I like to understand how things work." So naturally she pursued her passion into Maths, Physics and Chemistry A levels, and on to a Master's in Chemistry.
After a particularly inspiring lecture on surfactants, she enthusiastically approached the lecturer (who would become her PhD mentor) asking to do a project with him. They worked on her crazy master's project, tuning surfactant mixtures, flooding foam blocks with them and taking them to hospitals to generate phantom livers for keyhole surgery which were and viewed with ultrasound. Then, towards the end of her masters, Sarah decided to do a PhD at Bristol. “I totally fell in love with doing a PhD! When else do you get the opportunity to just learn? You could just spend the whole day learning something new!" This was when she had her first experience of ISIS, as a user.
During her post doc at Bristol, Sarah started applying for jobs at RAL. First, she was a junior Beamline Scientist at the Diamond Light Source, but as soon as a position came up at ISIS she jumped on it, as neutrons were more relevant to her research.
At the beginning, her main role was looking after the LOQ instrument in TS1. She was able to help users with their experiments, as well as developing her own science. It just so happened that while she was doing this, TS2 started coming online. This opened new doors for Sarah as she got involved in commissioning the SANS2D instrument. “Taking something that was basically building blocks through to something producing world leading science every day. It's a really amazing part of the job".
During this entire process she discovered that as well as the buzzing science she also really loved dealing with the people side of things day to day. So naturally she was an excellent choice for becoming the Group Leader for SANS which gives her the best of both worlds.
In her role as SANS Group Leader, Sarah oversees an incredible team of scientists. She looks after everything from their general welfare, to ensuring the range of science being performed is balanced. “We look at a huge variety of things from the soap you use to clean your hair, all the way through to magnetic recording material and everything in between. Biological systems, engineering, food science, you name it, we have probably looked at it on a SANS beamline!" So, there is a whole lot of science to cover! What's more, as Sarah puts it “Every day is different with SANS. Always trying to push things faster, squash or stretch things more, apply bigger magnetic fields." All in all, Sarah loves the blend of people skills and amazing science that makes up her day-to-day life.
Excitingly Sarah is soon to become the Large-Scale Structures and Engineering Division which will be made up of the SANS, Reflectometry, Disordered Materials and Engineering Groups at ISIS! We wish her good luck in her new role and look forward to seeing her continue to strive!