Kate Wyness is studying for a PhD, researching nuclear “sludge”. She’s working on a probe that could delve down into it, characterize it and help find solutions to the challenges of dealing with nuclear waste at Sellafield nuclear plant in the UK. This short film for Physics World’s Faces of Physics series reveals what life is like for Kate during her PhD programme at the University of Bristol. The experimental work Kate is engaged in brings opportunities to develop practical skills, but also brings challenges given the complexity and highly-regulated nature of the nuclear industry.

”A nuclear-powered PhD” has been produced by Andrew Glester and Ben Cowburn, who document Kate’s experiences inside the lab as part of a team of applied researchers. The film also shows what life is like for an early career researcher living in Bristol, a city with a strong maritime history, which has developed as a strong cultural hub in recent times. Kate explains how she was drawn to the city’s sense of community – a factor that Kate also values in her approach to physics.

Physics World’s Faces of Physics series is a collection of short films about the lives of people working in physics, exploring their motivations and the impact of their work. By telling personal stories, we hope to show that physics is an ordinary activity that can lead to an extraordinary array of careers. Earlier films in the series profiled an engineer working in green energy, a physics teacher in New York and a Mexican astronomer with a passion for photography.

To find out more about the social side of physics, take a look at the March 2016 issue of Physics World, a special edition about diversity issues in physics. Find out how to access that issue here.