#ALD15: Kate Oliver

Kate Oliver is a PhD Candidate with the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials EPSRC CDT. In an extract from her own blog on Ada Lovelace Day, she discusses nanotechnology, making humans more efficient, and the motivation and inspiration for her work.

What motivates your research?
I came to research nanotechnology because I wanted to build the future. I wanted to use the beautiful, isolationist physics principles I studied to understand the world to do something. We have enough problems now — global warming, antibiotic resistance, increasing population, decreasing arable land, increasing energy needs — that pretty much everything could use improving. We certainly don’t have an abundance of materials to do it with. We need to do more with less, be more clever with what we have. We should use as little material as possible, make systems that automatically save energy, design things that work based on their inherent properties. Take less, get more, be more efficient, be more adaptable, and put design into every molecule of what we do. I want life to be more like science fiction.

What inspired or influenced you to pursue physics?
I was torn between studying physics or going to art school. In the end I decided I could always draw in my spare time while doing physics professionally, whereas being allowed to play with particle accelerators on a casual basis was less likely.

Could you tell us about your current projects?
I’m building a 3D printer and developing a material for it to print that will react to changes in heat. The idea is to 3D print things that then change shape – adding a fourth dimension to printing. These smart materials could save energy and do multiple jobs.

Kate in her happy place, surrounded by 3D printing materials
To read more about Kate’s inspiration and heroine, Professor Tomoko Ohta, read her tribute here. Professor Ohta was a great population geneticist who invented the ‘nearly neutral’ theory of genetic drift.