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Diamond Light Source

Katherine McAuley, Principal Beamline Scientist 

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What are your main responsibilities?

Diamond is a synchrotron, a huge scientific facility that produces light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. Thousands of scientists visit the facility each year to use the light in their experiments. There are currently 24 different experimental stations, called beamlines, and I manage the operation and development of one of Diamond’s macromolecular crystallography beamlines, I03. Researchers from academia and industry use I03 to determine the 3D structures of biological molecules and I have to ensure the facility is working optimally during their experiments. Work on I03 contributes to many things, including the development of new medicine and treatments for disease.

What is a typical day for you?

Some days I will be helping users on the beamline and this involves training them in how to use the equipment and software and generally helping with their experiments. Other days I may be in planning meetings to organise the installation of new components. For example, the robot in the portrait is soon to be upgraded to a new one that will be able to handle many more samples.

What science, technology, engineering and or maths (STEM) do you use in your role?

I trained as a biophysical chemist but this role requires some understanding of physics, life sciences and engineering. I have worked in life sciences for many years but I’m still learning the physics and engineering aspects.

How did you get into this career?

I used to visit various synchrotrons as a post-doctoral scientist in structural biology and spent many nights on the beamlines collecting the data needed for my experiments. When I saw a job opening for a beamline scientist at the Synchrotron Radiation Source at Daresbury, I applied and was accepted for the position. I moved to Diamond more than 10 years ago, before the synchrotron building was built, and have been involved in the design, build and operation of I03 ever since.

What do you enjoy the most in your role?

It’s never dull here and there are always new projects to work on or things to improve on the beamline.

Tell us a bit about yourself – family, hobbies, and interests?

I have a husband, daughter, 1 dog and 14 chickens. When I’m not looking after the animals or the garden then I enjoy baking and going to the gym.

Photos are of Katherine operating the equipment at the end of the beamline.

  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
    Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source
  • Katherine at Diamond Light Source

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