Mariastefania De Vido
Great questions! And thanks for all your votes!
Politecnico di Milano, Italy (2007-2013)
BSc and MSc in Engineering Physics
Since 2013, I have been working as a laser scientist at STFC Central Laser Facility
Laser scientist, working with other scientists and engineers to build DiPOLE laser.
STFC Central Laser Facility
Favourite thing to do in my job: Getting to see or do something that no one else has before, learning something new and exciting every day!
I develop innovative high energy lasers, which will improve everybody’s life. Do you want to know how? Read on!
I am a laser scientist working at STFC Central Laser Facility, a few miles outside Oxford. I work on the development of a new kind of laser, more specifically “high energy pulsed lasers”.
A laser is a device that amplifies light in a very well controlled way, creating powerful light beams with many amazing properties. For example, unlike light emitted by light bulbs, laser beams can travel very long distances with minimal spreading out.
Lasers that give out short bursts of light are called “pulsed lasers”. When you work with pulsed lasers, it is really important to know how much energy is contained in each light pulse and how often a laser can shine a pulse. Some lasers can produce high energy pulses, but only a few times per hour. Other lasers can emit many pulses per second, but the energy contained in each pulse is quite low. However, a lot of new exciting applications need lasers shining many high energy pulses each second. That’s where me and my colleagues come into play: we are developing a laser shining high energy pulses ten times a second! We have given a name to this laser: it is called DiPOLE.
I guess you are now thinking:
Wait a second… this sounds really interesting, but what can be DiPOLE used for?
Well, actually for a lot of thrilling and useful stuff! 🙂 Let me tell you a few examples:
Bringing the power of the Sun to the Earth – All life on Earth is made possible by energy produced in the Sun through a process called “fusion”. It is called “fusion” because hydrogen atoms are fused together at extremely high temperatures and pressures, which are found at the centre of the Sun. Lasers like DiPOLE can be the beginning of the development of a fusion power plant for clean energy production!
X-ray movies – Lasers like DiPOLE can be used to produce X-rays and different kinds of particles which can be used for engineering or medical purposes. For example, X-rays generated with DiPOLE can take several pictures of things which are very big and move very fast, like jet engines; if all pictures are put together one after the other it is possible to create an X-ray movie! Moreover, particles generated using DiPOLE can be used for medical scans to detect diseases like cancer.
Sun, rain or fog? – Lasers like DiPOLE can be used to rapidly and precisely measure, for example, temperature and humidity over wide areas of the sky. Meteorologists can use the results to predict weather with greater accuracy compared to what’s possible now.
My Typical Day
No day is the same!
One of the best things about my job is that every day is different from the others.
Some days I will be working at the PC carrying out simulations to design the laser or analysing experimental data. Some other days, I am in the lab building the laser and performing experiments. During the rest of the time, I usually plan new experiments, write reports or read scientific papers to keep myself up-to-date on the latest advancements in my field.
What I'd do with the prize money
I would like to put together an experimental kit which can be brought to schools and will allow students to try out experiments with light.
As a student, I was always very excited when I had the opportunity to get some hands-on experience …well, for that matter still I am 🙂 ! I think that experiments with light can be real fun and allow finding explanations for many interesting things we see in the world around us.
Therefore, I would like to use the money to put together an experimental kit with components used by real scientists in their labs! I would then bring it to schools to allow students to have a go and get inspired… you may discover that there is a scientist hidden inside you! 🙂
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, enthusiastic, determined
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Being part of a team working on a multi-million ground-breaking project!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Science books, my first experiments with a microscope at home (some were quite disgusting… luckily my mum was really patient!) and a very good Physics teacher at high school.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, I was a quiet student.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Maybe a photographer working for the National Geographic: I could go to a lot of places around the world and tell interesting stories through photographs.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Pasta… quite predictable considering that I’m Italian! :-)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Playing guitar with my friends.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Live a happy and healthy life, make a difference, travel around the world.
Tell us a joke.
What did the traffic light say to the car? “Don’t look, I’m changing!”.