Francesca Day

Thank you to everyone who voted for me! :)

Favourite Thing: Thinking about new ways to search for new particles.



Fulford School, York (2002 – 2009). University of Cambridge (2009 – 2013)


A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Natural Sciences.

Work History:

I’ve done science projects in York, Cambridge, Imperial and at CERN.

Current Job:

I’m in the first year of my PhD at Oxford.


University of Oxford

Me and my work

I look for signs of particles falling to Earth from space.

I’m looking for particles called axions. We don’t know whether or not axions exist, but if they do they are streaming through the Earth all the time! Axions are predicted by String Theory – a theory that tells us that different particles are really different patterns of vibration on strings. We don’t know whether or not String Theory is correct, and discovering whether or not axions exist might help us decide.

The trouble is, axions hardly interact with every day matter at all. If they exist, they are flying through you right now, but you can’t see or feel them. Fortunately, we predict that a few axions will turn into X-rays in big, strong magnetic fields. These magnetic fields need to cover huge distances, much larger than anything we could create on Earth. I’m trying to work out the X-rays that would be generated by axions flying through the magnetic field of our galaxy, the Milky Way. We can then compare this with the X-rays we observe in the night sky to try to work out whether or not axions exist.

My Typical Day

I spend most of my time programming (i.e. telling my computer to do maths for me!)

My research involves doing lots of maths. It would take far too long to do all the sums by hand, so instead I write programs to tell my computer to do the right sums for me. These programs can get pretty complicated, and I spend most of my time trying to work out why the computer isn’t doing what I want it to!  Once I’ve finally got my programs to work, I look at the results and think about what they might mean. (This is the best bit!) My research group has a meeting every week where we discuss what we’ve been doing and try to solve each other’s problems.

Another big part of they job is reading about what other scientists have done, especially if it might be relevant to my work. Because I’m in my first year, I’m also still going to lectures and doing problem sheets. (This is basically like homework!)

What I'd do with the money

I’d really like to work with artists to create some fun sciency art that I could show schools and the public to explain science in a different way! I’d also like to buy some cool magnets to take round schools that you could experiment with to learn about magnetism is a more hands on way.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Short, Blond and Nerdy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Ed Sheeran

What's your favourite food?

Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Icecream

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Playing hide and seek at CERN

What did you want to be after you left school?

A physicist :)

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not often, but nobody’s perfect!

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

I worked on a project called “UFOs at the LHC” – ask me about it!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Looking at the night sky and wandering how it all worked

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Probably something less fun to do with computers!

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

If I wasn’t allowed to use them on other people – being able to learn new languages without any effort, not having to sleep and my very own particle collider!

Tell us a joke.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

Other stuff

Work photos: