Emma Blends Work and Study to Change Direction


Emma Wooldridge

Emma Wooldridge (MPhil Engineering, 2009) experienced a different way of combining her Lancaster studies with an engineering role through a mix of the University and the Cockcroft Institute. Here she tells how this blend of work and study worked for her and eventually led to her current post in the Netherlands.

"In 2003 I started at Daresbury Laboratory as an RF Scientist/Engineer in the Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC). Six months in, the opportunity came up to do a part-time postgraduate degree with Lancaster University and the Cockcroft Institute, focusing on beam instabilities in linear accelerators. Working and studying in the same field has its advantages: work gave me the day-to-day hands-on experience and studying made me explore it in great depth. Another advantage was that, with ASTeC and Lancaster being part of the Cockcroft Institute, the lectures and seminars I attended were close at hand and often held at work; my supervisor and I alternated meeting at the University and the Cockcroft Institute.

I left Daresbury before the end of my studies to work at the JET tokamak. Whilst there I was supported to finish my studies, but also advised to focus on the new field I had jumped into. I think moving between fields can be a great thing: it enables you to look at things anew.

After many interesting years at JET, I moved back to working with particle accelerators. My first move was into industry, where on my first day I bumped into someone from Cockcroft Institute. Since then I’ve kept on bumping into people from when I was studying. At conferences and meetings we discuss ways of working together. 

This is still true, even now that I’ve moved to the Netherlands. I am the Chief Technology Officer at Dynaxion, a startup based in Eindhoven, where we are a building a new generation security scanner. This uses neutrons to search and identify illicit materials contained within parcels. Though it is still the same field as my studies it is a different environment: there is with a greater need to be flexible and adapt, to pivot and change direction. My studies and experiences since then have given me the depth and breadth to do just that."

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