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A day in the life

SCIENCE CAREERS

Jonathan Malcolm, Quantum Technology Scientist

What is your role and how did you arrive at your current position?
I am a Quantum Technology Scientist, working to develop new devices that use quantum mechanics to perform some of the most precise measurements of our environment available today. We are building commercial systems to measure gravity and time at higher precision with greater stability than products currently used.

I started working with M Squared as part of a Knowledge Transfer scheme while I was completing my PhD. I found that the company and the work were so exciting that I wanted to stick around.

What time do you wake up?
I normally wake up at around 7 am.

When do you start?
I get to the office just before 9 am.

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We use quantum mechanics to perform some of the most precise measurements of our environment available today

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work?
Make myself a coffee, check over emails and make a quick plan of tasks for the day.

What attracted you to your career?
It is an exciting time to be involved with quantum technology, the field is rapidly expanding, and there are many opportunities available. In particular, I am interested in seeing how fundamental research is being taken out of the academic environment and made into ‘useful’ devices by innovative companies such as M Squared.

What have been your biggest challenges in this role?
Adjusting from a ‘buy anything you want’ research environment into a ‘buy only what you know you need’ business environment.

Describe your workspace.
A bright, sunlit (sometimes) desk area for research. For the practical work, there is a laser booth with an optical table to hold our system. A small rack of electronics controls everything we need. Everything is very neat and uncluttered – for the most part.

What kind of tools do you work with?
We are working daily with a SolsTiS laser, and numerous M Squared electronics packages to run our systems. We have vacuum systems, lasers, electronics and computer control, so a bit of everything. Some time is spent on the computer doing further research into the field or designing the next stage of the project. From time to time there is also some hands-on machining of parts for the system.

Who do you interact most with?
The other members of the Quantum Technology team for the day to day work in the laboratory. Also, the project management team make sure that we are on track and we feedback our results to them for dissemination.

How often do you get out of the office?
I am very fortunate that M Squared is excited about the work we are doing and keen to show it off. This means that I have been lucky enough to travel to exhibitions and shows around the UK and Europe to present the progress we are making. There is normally something happening every month.

What do you most look forward to each day?
You always want everything to go according to plan all the time, but I do look forward to finding novel solutions to problems that arise.

What or who inspires you?
Many of the academics currently working in the quantum field are inspirational, constantly on the cutting edge and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Sometimes coming up with crazy ideas that seem to work out in the end. They are passionate about their work, and it makes me want to build on what they have done.

What do you do for lunch?
I often sit with the rest of the Innovation team to eat lunch. If the weather is nice, then we all sit outside in the park surrounding the building. If it’s very nice, we throw a frisbee.

Describe your best day at work to date.
When we saw the first fringes from an atom interferometry signal -after a lot of hard work. We then exhibited the system in London and wanted to impress. I think we managed to do that and all the effort paid off.

How does the working day end?
Gradually switching off the laser system and other equipment, catching up with what the rest of the team has done in the day, and then a sprint to the bus.

What time do you get home?
I live pretty close to the bus route so that I can be back in my flat around six for dinner. Then plenty of time to go and experience Glasgow in the evening.

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QUANTUM SCIENTIST
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Jonathan Malcolm, Quantum Technology Scientist

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