wHAT kIND oF dOCTOR dID YOU SAY YOU WERE AGAIN?
The Governor of Washington promised me a tour of his state’s LIGO facility. I’m definitely going to hold him to that.
So – I’m a scientist. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time featured Death Mountain, a completely unrealistic volcano, but a volcano nonetheless. Combine that with parents that did all they could to encourage me/stop me melting things inside their house and get outside instead, an amazing pair of teachers at school, and a strong penchant for mischief, and boom, you’ve got yourself a volcanologist. Well, eventually. It took an MSci in geology (I hate rocks, but I love lava) and a PhD to get there, but I did it – and it was worth it just to be the strangest doctor of them all.
Yes, Doctor Who is incredible. Yes, I want a TARDIS more than anything.
I'm probably a tad unconventional. I went into a bit of self-imposed exile in New Zealand, a beautiful country at the (proverbial and literal) end of the world. I managed to simulate a mysterious eruption hundreds of years old, which was neat. There were artificial volcanoes built in New York; weird machines in Germany; puppies in an Arizona desert; helicopters in Japan.
An old friend and I made it to the top of Mount Fuji, at the height of the Perseids meteor shower, moments before the Sun rose and (hypothetically) saved our frigid souls from (not quite) death. It was glorious, confusing and full of all those things you call “emotions.” An experience, it all was.
These days, I’m a freelance science journalist: I’m a Contributor to Forbes, and tend to crop up in The New York Times, National Geographic, Earther, Gizmodo, Scientific American, Atlas Obscura, The Verge, WIRED and more. Don't get me wrong: research was fun – and terrifying, and weird, and wonderful and utterly exhausting – but after realizing that volcanoes and geoscience alone wasn’t the only science I was enthralled by, I jumped into science writing. Leave sensationalism, fearmongering and pseudoscientific bullshit at the door: the unvarnished, poetic beauty of science and those behind the discoveries stand perfectly well on their own in a world smothered by fake news and clickbait headlines.
I’m always available for freelancing, as long as you can promise me the science is nothing less than delicious. Same for science consultancy, which I do for Outrageous Acts of Science, and for lecturing on science communication, which Imperial College – my old academic stomping ground – and UCL graciously let me do from time to time.
Sometimes, I appear at festivals (like Cheltenham’s annual foray), in schools and on stages in an attempt to make science funny. It’s like free therapy, in public. I’d recommend it.
Over the last few years, I’ve covered every kind of science imaginable, from bizarre quantum spookiness at the margins of black holes and the neurology of psychopathy to the artificial intelligence that invents itself. Stories on volcanoes, climate change, earthquakes, hurricanes, asteroids, dinosaurs and escaped animal tales always bring me disproportionate amounts of joy. Volcanoes and climate change are, if you'll excuse the pun, the hot topics I cover the most, though - but give me any kind of science, and I’ll endeavour to explain it to anyone who’s not a scientist. I'm also pretty efficient at squeezing science out of pop culture moments.
I also try to do all I can to highlight those defending research, and to show up those attacking it. I have the dubious honour of being one of the very first liberal snowflakes, which to me always sounded rather adorable.
Every day’s a school day – but I’m doing my best to do something awesome. I’m also writing a book, because I clearly miss writing a thesis or something.
Direct all hate mail here. If you happen to be a delightful science-flavored snowflake too, the same applies. You can also find me on Twitter, fending off trolls, pushing back snark, and telling scientists and writers how cool they are.