I am a physicist at AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment), Aldermaston, Berkshire which produces, maintains and underwrites Britain’s nuclear deterrent. In an era where it is no longer possible to carry out underground nuclear tests, it is important to be able perform laboratory experiments to research certain aspects of physics in order improve our understanding of nuclear weapons and to validate our computer models.
One of these key topics is plasma physics and I am a Team Leader in this area. I manage a team of experimentalists that use high-energy lasers to probe materials properties (in the plasma state) to help underwrite the physics of nuclear weapons. AWE works closely with partner institutions in the USA under the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) via formal classified exchanges known as JOWOGs (Joint Working Groups). My nomination in the ‘Most Collaborative’ category is for the contributions to the plasma physics JOWOG which I have been contributing to, and leading, for many years; in fact, I was proud to be the first female JOWOG leader appointed at AWE. I have played a key role in fostering, developing and strengthening strategic collaborations with AWE’s partner laboratories which support AWE’s science mission. By accessing larger laser facilities in the US, AWE has been able to realise significant cost-savings via these collaborations. As part of my role, I manage a multi-million-pound annual investment at one US partner institution which entails diplomatic negotiations each year to ensure that AWE gains optimum benefit from the contractual arrangement. I also manage and provide support to AWE staff on long-term secondments at our partner laboratories in the US and I was thrilled to be rated (by my team) as a 3-Star Leader in a recent Best Companies survey.
A few years ago, I was invited by the MOD to support them directly (part-time) to help improve some of their strategic relationships with the US under the MDA. I formed new bonds with senior AWE and MOD personnel and have worked closely with senior scientists and government officials across the nuclear weapons complex in the US. This has been a fantastic opportunity which has broadened my knowledge and allowed me to contribute to different aspects of nuclear weapons research.
I am absolutely thrilled to be a finalist for the Most Collaborative award. To be recognised for doing something that I am passionate about is extremely rewarding. I count myself fortunate to have collaborated with such a great bunch of people during my career and my award is as much a reflection on them as it is on me. I feel proud to represent AWE at Women in Defence. I am looking forward to exploiting new opportunities to promote women in the STEM arena and to broadening my network and knowledge of the defence industry.