22 July 2022. Brought to you by Luke Richards.

Jon Wood

What is your current job / programme of study? 

Outreach Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. 

Which A-Levels (or equivalent) did you do? 

School was bad, so after a three-year hiatus and then working in the NHS, I started a BTEC National Certificate in Science course, followed by a degree in Biomedical Sciences. 

Why did you chose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) 

A fascination with ‘biomimicry’; copying how nature does something amazing. For example, your eyes are 3D, autofocus, full colour, 576 megapixels cameras that run at ridiculous frame rates, have automatic exposure compensation, and you can fit two in a matchbox. Then realise they are made of just water, sugar, and fats! No matter how much you look at design, it’s always the materials that are the most impressive thing. 

What is your research about?  

I translate hardcore science for school audiences and teachers who don’t have specialist laboratory equipment that researchers do. So, I design and build versions out of recycled things. Using these, I then develop workshops that let visitors experience the story of researchers’ work. 

What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far? 

I sometimes get to do huge science shows; 500 people in a room, all hanging on a fascinating story. Wonderful! I’ve performed live science on tour with the BBC, sang science songs on stage at a music festival, done science-based stand-up comedy, performed science theatre, and made films about everyday objects that have hidden engineering. 

What do you see yourself doing in the future? 

Being curious! There’s a lot of brilliant ideas out there in nature and every one of them is inspiring to the engineer who recognises the right solution for the right challenge.  

What is your favourite material (and why)? 

Candy floss! The same technique can be used to make cavity wall insulation for houses by heating other materials till they become liquid and spinning them quickly into fine fibres.  

What advice would you give your 16 year old self? 

Learn to DO science (something you need to) before you decide whether you want to BE a scientist (something you can chose to). 

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