Mark Basham

Busy day today, but enjoying the live chats

Favourite Thing: Writing software which other scientists use is quite demanding, but there is nothing better than when it helps them to understand tricky data which hopefully leads to great science being done.



Bognor Regis Community College (1992-1998), University of Reading (1998-2004)


GCSES; A-Levels; BSc in Physics with Computer Science; PhD in Computational Physics

Work History:

University of Reading (2004-2007), Diamond Light Source (2007 – Now)

Current Job:

Software Scientist

My STFC Facility:

Diamond Light Source

Me and my work

I write computer programs to analyse the data that other scientists collect from the Diamond Synchrotron

My work is mainly in 2 software projects, the GDA (Generic Data Acquisition) and the SDA (Scientific Data Analysis)

The GDA (shown here working on a beamline) is used by scientists who are collecting data at Dimaond Light Source to plan and run their experiments.


Here is a closeup of the GDA running and looking at some data from one of the beamlines


The SDA is used by the scientists once they have collected the data, and s a tool to help them understand what the data they have collected actualy means. The images below are from a poster I presented at a conference in Paris earlier this year.

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My Typical Day

Each day is different, but in general I spend about half of my time writing software, and the other half communicating between many of the other scientists and engineers around Diamond.

We have an computer calender system at STFC which is invaluable for helping me with what i need to do in a day.  I work as part of a team of about 25 Scientists and Engineers who write all the software that the scientists who come to Diamond Light Source interact with.  This team needs to communicate a lot, so every week I will go to 5 short meetings (15 mins) and 2 long meetings (1:30) purely to make sure the software being developed is consistant and relevent.

I will also then generaly go to several hours of meeting with the scientists who run the beamlines at Diamond, this is to collect information about the science that is being done, and then focus our software on these tasks.

Thats it for meetings, but I do end up going to beamlines on a regular basis to fix problems and help with collecting and analyising data which the users are collecting, this includes running training courses for our staff so they know best how to get things done.

When all of this is done, I spend the rest of my time writing software.

If nothing else there is never a dull moment 🙂

What I'd do with the money

I like to help students understand how programming and engineering are used in lots of scientific areas, a superb tool to help with this would be a LEGO Mindstorms educational pack and some accessories.

When we visit schools to talk about what we do, it would be really useful to be able to demonstrate how we collect data.  With a lego mindstorms kit, I can connect the software we use to control the experiments to it, and conduct models of those experiments, to show exactly what we do.

In fact we already use lego on one of the beamlines for holding samples!


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

enthusiastic friendly scientist

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Listen to the radio mostly, so whetevers on :)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Flying a powered glider solo, Terrifying but Terrific!

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

I’d love to explore the solar system, so that would definatly be one, number 2 would be some more funding for science in general, especialy renewable energy research and I guess the final one would be for 3 more wishes :)

What did you want to be after you left school?

First an RAF pilot, then an Engineer, it was only when doinig my PhD that I realy decided to stay in science.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really, but I was aweful at doing homework on time!

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

I wrote some software that allowed a colleague at univeristy to solve a problem with some experimental data they had.

Tell us a joke.

Whats black and white and red all over? A sunburnt pinguin…….

Other stuff

Work photos:

Diamond Light Source from the Air


The main entrance to Diamond House which is the office block attached to the main synchrotron building, I live in the offices on the left hand side of this Photo


Me giving a tour of the Synchrotron Machine to some A-Level Students, this is the heart of Diamond, and part of the machinery that accelerates electrons to nearly the speed of light.  These fast moving electrons are then used to generate the light that which the scientists use to proform their experiments.


Here is a picture of one of the beamlines, Diamond has over 20 beamlines, each of them is equipped to do different science, dependant on what the UK scientific community needs.


The best time to visit:

There is always exciting new science being done at Diamond Light Source, and I would recomend visiting the website and booking a tour.