Maddison Coke

sad to be evicted but had a blast

Favourite Thing: Making something new, or trying something that has never been tried before. When you try these new things nothing is wrong, no one knows what will happen and these are the things that really excite me.



University; UCL 2012-2016, Imperial 2011-2016 School: Highworth Grammar School 2004-2011


MSci in chemistry

Work History:

One year at GSK pharamcuticals looking at how drugs transport in your body

Current Job:

PhD student



Me and my work

I use beams of molecules, to create tiny structures smaller than the thickness of your hair, one layer of molecules at a time, so we can make smartphones run quicker in the future.

I have been working with a chamber that creates beams of atoms in a vacuum for 4 years. We use these beams to create different and new materials- from tiny wires to sheets of materials to boulder type shapes. We do everything in a chamber with no air in it so that we get the purest material and we have the most control over what we are growing. The machine is called a Molecular Beam Epitaxy Chamber, but we like to call her Martha. Me and my other students follow a sample through the whole process, we grow it, look at its properties, create tiny circuits with them and finally see how electricity passes through them in different conditions.

My Typical Day

Days in the lab involve lots of controlling of values, heating and cooling as well as actully handling samples, although the odd office day just involves a lot of emails.

I run the lab so in the morning I have to make sure that all the pumps are running as they should and machine is running safely. If I am in the lab that day I will wash all my samples and load them into the chamber, heat up my samples before I open them up to the beams of molecules. This cleans them but also makes sure that the molecules have enough energy to create the best material. We have 4 pumps, 3 beams of molecules and a plasma beam to monitor so a lot of my time is spent checking these are working or adjusting them. Many of the machines I work on are similar in that you set up what you want to do, like a recipe, and then the rest of the time you monitor to make sure it runs well. Robots can only do so much!

What I'd do with the money

Take my science lego roadshow around the UK!

I have been to a couple of schools and fairs trying to put on an interactive stall showing how our chamber works through Lego- but what we are missing currently is a good way to make a chamber with no air in it- a vacuum. I would use this money to invest in new materials so that we could show what happens to marshmallows in a vacuum as well as what would fall fastest- feather or bowling ball! We are planning on making a small chamber so you too can try out your skills as a vacuum scientist.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Relaxed, whimsical, bright

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Flown in a chinook helicopter and hung out the side

What did you want to be after you left school?

always a scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

sleeping in class, I used the text book to cover my face :s

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Applied a magnet 10,000 x stonger then the ones on your fridge to my sample and saw electricity act unusaully

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My mum, she said I could be whatever I wanted to be

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Maybe the Air Force, I used to love being an air cadets

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

(1) For Martha (my machine) never to break again (2) Win a Nobel Prize (which means I would have done some awesome science double win) (3) Lifetime supply of pizza without consequences

Tell us a joke.

How do trees get on the internet? They log in!

Other stuff

Work photos:


Not every day is same. Here we are fitting new parts onto our machine, and trying to get something that was dropped out of the machine. As we want to make sure everything is sterile we decided that tin foil was the best solution….so covered the students arm in it!


One day you’ll be making materials on the nanoscale (10000000x smaller than a cm) other times you’ll be doing plumbing for the machine itself. Our machine produces the same amount of heat as 6 kettles boiling all the time so we have a lot of water to deal with to keep it cool all the time.


To show the scale of the biggest bits we make- the tiny bits of gold there are about 1000 times larger then what we first put on the sample. We need bigger bits coming off what we make so we can connect to electricty so this is our pattern. The lines you can see behind are lines on a page.


We like to celebrate all the big events in the lab….such as red nose day…sadly I forgot to take a Christmas one