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Dr. Rachel Edwards

Rachel Edwards is a Reader in Physics and is a member of the Ultrasound Group, which sits within Condensed Matter Physics. She did her PhD in Oxford before moving to the University of Florida for a year as a visiting research fellow. She moved back to the UK, to Warwick, in 2003 to work as a postdoctoral researcher, and became an academic in 2007.

Rachel's main research interests are in non-contact generation and detection of ultrasound using lasers and electromagnetic acoustic transducers, with applications in non-destructive testing and in low temperature measurements of phase changes in single crystals. She was awarded an ERC Starting Independent Researcher grant a couple of months after starting work as a lecturer, and used this to create a new area of research for the Ultrasound Group.

Rachel is very involved in outreach, and won the 2017 University Award for Public Engagement. She really enjoys talking about physics to school children, and showing them how much fun it can be.

How did your journey into science begin?

I quite liked physics at school, and it fitted into my love of science fiction and enjoyment of maths (when it had a clear application). I chose to study physics at university, and never got bored of it! My PhD introduced me to working at magnet facilities in the USA and the Netherlands, and I spent a year afterwards working at the University of Florida. I changed research field when I came back to the UK, and it has been really interesting using physics to develop solutions to real-world problems.

What is your favourite thing about your research?

I use ultrasound to measure material properties. This gives me a lot of variety in my research - sometimes I'm looking at tiny semiconductor membranes, and other days I'm looking for cracks in railway tracks. It's great working with the research group to solve problems. I also enjoy teaching, and currently teach Condensed Matter Physics (3rd year undergraduates) and Electronics.

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

We all need role models, and particularly to see someone "like us" doing the job we think we might like to do. When I moved to Warwick I was very happy to join a community where there were a number of female professors, and where I could see a career path.

It is also really important to tell people about the research we do, and to discuss research problems with them. I love going out to schools to encourage interest in Physics. I'm now the Associate Academic Director of the Warwick Institute of EngagementLink opens in a new window, and get to help other people across the University to communicate their passion for research.

Working at Warwick...

"The department has been very supportive of my career, and the head of the research group and the head of department both encouraged me to apply for lectureships and move from temporary contracts to a permanent position. I have been given lots of help and advice when applying for grants. It is great to now be able to pass on that encouragement and advice to other people in the group and the department."

- Rachel Edwards