James Holloway

Final vote tomorrow, Thanks to everyone whos taken part - has been lots of fun :D

Favourite Thing: Experiments! My work takes me to large laser laboratories where we shoot targets with ultra high energy laser beams to see what happens. Its great fun and hard work, there’s always a new challenge to conquer and things to learn. You get to use state of the art equipment and meet people who really know their stuff. At the end you come away with a new understanding of how a little part of nature works (hopefully!) and a real sense of accomplishment.



Chalfont Community College (2000-2005). Exeter University (2005-2008). Imperial College (2009-2010).


A-Levels: Maths:A Physics:A Biology:B Chemistry:B. BSc degree in Physics: 1st class. MSc degree in physics.

Work History:

I’ve worked for my dad’s company fitting windows and have done some conservation work, but otherwise have always been a student.

Current Job:

I am doing my PhD (training to become a research scientist) in accelerator physics.


University College London

Me and my work

I am a PhD student who is trying to find a way to make particles (little bits of stuff) go faster than ever before. By smashing particles together really hard we can find out what stuff is made of on the smallest level!

You may of heard of the LHC at CERN? (or maybe not!)

Well, it is the biggest machine in the world buried deep underground and smashes particles together so scientists can see what they are made of.

The problem is that its sooo big and expensive that we can’t afford to build the next bigger one. Thats where my work comes in, I’m looking at a clever new way of getting particles to go even faster using the same sized machines. Then we can smash them together even harder!

That makes me an accelerator physicist – because I am trying to accelerate things. Good fun!

My Typical Day

I get ordinary office days, then I get experiment days where we build experiments out of an expensive mechano sets and fire lasers!

When I ‘go on experiment’ I can be there for up to 6 months. It involves getting up early and going to bed late but the thrill keeps you going.

Throughout the day me and my team get in the laser laboratory and build an experiment out of mirrors, cables, magnets, cameras and all sorts (don’t drop the mirrors!). Sometimes we turn on dangerous lasers so have to wear safety goggles, other times the magnets can be so powerful they can explode if you hit them with a screw driver, also we handle radioactive stuff so have to be very careful not to hurt ourselves.

Here is one of these huge mirrors we use (very expensive!):


Once we’re happy with it we shut the lead door of the laboratory and fire the giant laser (size of a house) from the control room!

The laser bounces off the mirrors and hits our little target (which usually gets blown up), the cameras catch the action and we look from the safety of the control room.

What I'd do with the money

Make lots of mini-experiments showing how interesting and fun physics can be so we can take them to schools and get students interested!

So the idea is to make a number of cool experiments that we can take with us to schools to help get students involved.
Check out some of the mini experiments below:

Slow falling magnet:

Homemade Gauss gun:

Vortex cannon:

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

chilled, friendly, a bit of a geek!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

At the moment? Modest Mouse (tough question)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Suba diving

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

Be the first human on mars, time machine, more wishes.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Thought about starting a business, an internet shop, but decided to get into science.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, to be honest I was really quite bad! The teachers either loved or hated me. I was suspended several times and spent most of my free time in detention.

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

Gave an hour talk about my research infront of many people who were far better at it than me. Made me feel confident and proud afterwards, although it was pretty scary.

Tell us a joke.

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One fish turns to the other and says “Dam!”

Other stuff

Work photos: