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Emma MacPherson

E. Pickwell-MacPherson studied natural sciences for her undergraduate degree at Cambridge University followed by an MSci in Physics where she specialized in semiconductor physics. She started her PhD with the Semiconductor Physics Group at Cambridge University and TeraView Ltd, a company specializing in terahertz imaging in 2002. Her PhD work focused on understanding contrast mechanisms in terahertz images of skin cancer.

Having completed her thesis in 2005, she worked for TeraView Ltd as a Medical Scientist until moving to Hong Kong in 2006. Prof MacPherson set up a terahertz laboratory at the Department of Electronic Engineering, CUHK during her post between 2006 and 2009 as an Assistant Professor. She spent 3 years at HKUST as a Visiting Assistant Professor (September 2009 -2012) and returned to the Department of Electronic Engineering, CUHK in Sept 2012. Prof MacPherson has represented Hong Kong on the International Organising Committee for the Infrared and Millimeter Wave and Terahertz Wave (IRMMW-THz) conference series since 2009 and she was the General Conference Chair of the 2015 IRMMW-THz conference held at CUHK. She joined the Physics department at Warwick University, UK in 2017 and is the recipient of a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. Her most recent research project is Terabotics which encompasses the vision to incorporate THz sensing with robotics for faster cancer diagnosis.
Terabotics Programme Grant (

How did your journey into science begin?

My Physics teachers at school were always very encoraging and Physics and maths were my strongest subjects. I saw posters to encourage girls to do degrees in physics when I was applying to do my degree, but had never considered Physics because I was really interested in applying my skills to medicine. I took Natural Sciences at Cambridge to keep doing as wide a base of science for as long as possible, and then specialised in physics from the second year and haven't looked back. I thoroughly enjoyed my PhD (even more than my undergraduate degree) and am very grateful to those who have helped me along the way.

What is your favourite thing about your research?

My research now links Physics with medicine, so I am doing the things I am best at for a cause that I am passionate about.

Why do you think it is important to highlight women and gender minorities in science? What does it mean to you?

There are still not that many women in science professor roles, so as one of them, I hope to inspire and support the next generation to have more.