PhD student profile: Ella Fox- Widdows

Posted on: 23 June 2021 in Blog posts

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Meet Ella, from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics.

Hi, my name is Ella. I’m a PhD student studying Plasma Physics for Fusion Energy on the UK Fusion CDT programme based at the University of Liverpool.

My interest in Science started with a passion for Maths! I enjoyed solving Maths problems throughout my early education and had a really encouraging Maths teacher in secondary school. My love for Maths then led me to enjoy many aspects of Physics and solving scientific problems as the two subjects are so interconnected.

I graduated from the University of York with an undergraduate Master’s degree in Mathematics and Physics. During my final year I took a module in Fusion Energy and it sparked a strong interest in fusion! Fusion combines some really interesting physics with a green energy solution so I decided to pursue a PhD in fusion as it encompasses both my love of Physics and my passion for the environment.

My PhD project focuses on studying the behaviour of atoms and molecules in low temperature fusion plasmas. I use diagnostic techniques to extract information about the plasma parameters and emission for different conditions and my aim is to highlight the key atomic and molecular processes in edge plasmas in fusion machines!

Outside of my research I am passionate about outreach and science communication. Since 2018 I have led the Liverpool Doctoral College peer support network “Peers for PhDs” team which aims to connect PhD students from across the University of Liverpool and share advice about common worries. As a member of the Fusion Industry Association Fusion News team, I have presented news updates about fusion energy on the FIA Youtube channel. I also host the Fusion News Extra podcast where I interview specialists from the stories referenced in the Fusion News episodes. I’m a member of the FuseNet Student Council, which is an organisation that coordinates European Fusion Education activities. I’m also starting a podcast which I’ll be launching soon called Fusion Focused, where I interview inspiring experts within the fusion field to find out more about their journeys and careers (you can follow the Fusion Focused Instagram and twitter pages @fusionfocused to find out more!)

It’s important for everyone to be included within STEM as this creates an equitable, diverse community of people who can provide different viewpoints to solve important problems. There isn’t enough representation for women in STEM and so it’s really important for us to break this cycle of representation and encourage women to get involved and pursue STEM careers.

I’ve been really lucky to have brilliant female role models throughout my education, starting with my secondary school Maths teacher, awesome lecturers at the University of York and researchers at the University of Liverpool. My fellow female Fusion CDT PhD students inspire and support me greatly and I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Dr Melanie Windridge through work with the Fusion Industry Association over the last year, she is a very inspiring physicist and science communicator!

My main advice to girls thinking about a career in STEM would be to find out about the opportunities available! You could speak to your teachers, email university lecturers or students and try things out to see if you like it (work experience/summer internships) to find what you are passionate about. There are lots of different roles you can pursue with an EEE background as you gain a wide variety of transferable skills. There are also many people who would be happy to speak with you about their experiences or their work so reach out and chat with them.

In the future I’d like to stay working within the fusion field, either through further research at a private fusion company or in a national laboratory, communicating science, campaigning for climate change policy or a combination of these. I’d like to pursue a career that is varied, interesting, rewarding and flexible. and maybe work abroad somewhere. I’m hoping to put myself out there as much as possible and see what opportunities I can find!


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