Katharine Schofield

Favourite Thing: I love going out to Universities and to our STFC facilities to meet with scientists to find out about the exciting things they’re doing, and hope to be doing in future. The great privilege of my job is that I get to work with the best of the best in science, and I get to see the bigger picture unfolding.



Neston High School (Cheshire) – 1991 to 1999, University of Oxford, 1999-2003, University of Liverpool, 2003-2007


9 GCSEs, 5 A Levels, Master of Physics degree, PhD in Experimental Particle Physics

Work History:

I’ve worked at STFC as a programme manager since I finished my PhD in 2007.

Current Job:

Programme Manager for Nuclear Physics and Particle Astrophysics

My STFC Facility:

I work at STFC’s headquarters in Swindon

Me and my work

In short, I give money out to scientists for their research.

I coordinate all the processes and expert advice we need to ensure we make good decisions on who gets the money, and I make sure that once we’ve given it out that it’s spent wisely. If there are new big science projects on the horizon, often they are too expensive for one country to afford. So I go to meetings with funding representatives from all the other interested countries (sometimes in very nice places!) and we work together to figure out how we’re going to get the project funded and built. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, in parallel to the scientists doing all the design and technical work.

My Typical Day

It varies really! It depends whether I’m in the office or travelling.

When I’m in the office I usually get in between 9-9.30, make a cup of tea, spend some time reading and responding to email and then get stuck into my work for the day. I usually either go to the canteen for lunch, or go for a run, or into town, then back to work until 5.30-6ish. On a typical day I’ll have one or two meetings with colleagues to talk about work issues. Quite often I’m off travelling, either to one of the other STFC sites, or to a university, or for meetings abroad. This year I’ve been to Pisa, Bonn, CERN (the particle physics lab where the LHC is, near Geneva) and Santiago de Compostela.

What I'd do with the money

I have a couple of ideas – I would love to know which one you prefer! …One would be to get a ‘Talking Science’ event put on about one of the areas I support (Nuclear Physics or Particle Astrophysics). With cakes! My other idea is to make a video or a series of videos of ‘a day in the life’… more details on my ideas below…

1) ‘Taking science’ is a series of events run by STFC where we get scientists to come and talk about what they do. You don’t need to be a scientist to understand what they’re on about! We’ve had some amazing people like Brian Cox. I’d love to get someone like Jim Al Khalili (nuclear physicist from Surrey university) – he’s done some really good TV programmes and popular science books. It’s amazing to hear first hand what gets our speakers really excited about science. I’d get it recorded too so that it could be put on youtube for everyone to see. 2) My other idea is to find some willing scientists to be followed around all day by a video camera (and not just at work – at home before they leave for work, their journey, their day at work, whatever they’re up to in the evening, so maybe down the pub or in the gym or at home watching telly). I’d speed it up so you’d get a glimpse of the whole day in the space of a few minutes, and then have a short interview with them afterwards. It would show that scientists do ordinary as well as extraordinary things!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Resourceful, friendly, sporty

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Mountain Goats

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Ooh tricky one…I think I would say the time I was giving a talk at a conference in Dallas (I lived in San Francisco at the time), so we decided to make it into a roadtrip and drove all the way there and back, via all sorts of cool places like Yosemite, Death Valley, Bryce National Park, the Grand Canyon, stopping off at Coachella music festival on the way back.

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

Wow, erm, let’s see… I wish I could run 10k in under 50 mins (I’m not that far off!), I wish for nice sunny weather on April 28th (I’m getting married!), and go on, a physics one – I wish that the results from the LHC will be mindblowingly amazing.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wasn’t really sure! I just knew I wanted to study physics, and had an open mind about where it might take me. I think I probably fancied being a science journalist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

No, not particularly – I was a pretty conscientious student, so I think I got some leeway from the teachers! My best friend Naomi has never forgiven me for the time I made her giggle in maths – she got told off, I didn’t. Being good at maths showed its advantages at an early stage!

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

Living in California for 15 months while I was doing my PhD. The experiment I worked on was there – the lab was an amazing place to be as a scientist, and spare time was spent exploring San Francisco and beyond. Good times!

Tell us a joke.

How does Bob Marley like his doughnuts? ….Wi’ jam in!

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here’s a photo of me at my desk, it was taken a couple of years ago for a ‘Women in science’ brochure that STFC produced (check it out here: – you’ll see they photoshopped my desk to make it look tidier than it really was! If only it was that easy…). myimage1

This is me at EGO (European Gravitational Observatory) , near Pisa in May this year. I was there for the launch of the desgin study for a new Gravitational Waves detector called the Einstein Telescope. I’m on the left, in the middle is Susanne who runs a company which does marketing for the science community, universities, research institutes etc. On the right is Professor Sheila Rowan from Glasgow University – she’s a leading expert in gravitational waves, and the Queen awarded her an MBE earlier this year! In the background you can see the VIRGO experiment stretching off into the distance. myimage2

The best time to visit:

Well, there’s not a huge amount to see in my office, but I can help you arrange a visit to any of the STFC sites, or I can put you in touch with universities who might also be able to arrange a visit.