Olivia Voyce

I often get asked, mostly by taxi drivers, “so what’s the point of studying physics?”. Personally, this doesn’t have an existential answer like making the world a better place or saving humanity (all valid reasons), but because: I am good at it, I enjoy it and it gives me lots of career options. 

Growing up I was always quite academic and just loved to learn new things. I had a passion for studying English and up until the age of 16 I dreamed of being an author. After realising that this is quite a difficult career to pursue and deciding that it was best to keep my options open, I chose English literature, maths and physics to study at A-level.  After speaking to my parents, teachers and careers councillor at college, I decided to study Physics at University. We were all in a unanimous agreement that I needed something practical to study and I was told that I could always come back to writing later on in life.

I desire a career where I can continue to learn about the world around us and work with a diverse range of people.

For a long time, I wasn’t quite sure that I had picked the correct subject. I had always been at the top of my class at school and for the first few years of University it felt like I was struggling to keep up with all my new modules. In my third year I got to specialise in which subjects I’d like to take, and this made all the difference. I obtained a placement at a University in America, measuring the radioactivity of nuclear fuel rods, and completed my Masters project based on the data. My supervisor was key to my growing confidence in the area of nuclear physics and she was an amazing role model. Since then, I was offered a PhD studying the use of Thallium Bromide for gamma ray detection which has been both mentally challenging and stimulating.

Now I am in the third year of my PhD program and I am so glad I decided to stick with physics. I have presented at international conferences, been back to America twice and visited high security nuclear sites like Sellafield and Heysham. I have had so many great opportunities for personal growth and development and choosing a path in physics has given me so much confidence. Importantly, working with so many different people has given me life-long friends from all over the world and I have had the opportunity to inspire others into this career: I have set up the Liverpool Women in Physics group, regularly do outreach sessions for children and I write science articles for the online magazine “Physics World” (I guess I finally got to do that writing after all).