27 May 2022. Brought to you by Bethany Stansby.

Latham Haigh

What is your current job  / programme of study? 

I have just graduated with an MEng in Materials Science and Engineering (Research), but am now studying for a PhD in Nuclear Materials Science. 

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

Physics, Maths, Music and Chemistry (AS) 

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

I love the idea of how nearly everything around us has some kind of materials science going on. A lot of the barriers to future innovation are due to not having the materials that are up to the job. By researching new materials and the processes we use to make them, we can open the doorways to future advances in science and technology. 

What did you enjoy most about your MSE course?  

Getting to put a powder into a big box full of radiation and then work out how far apart the atoms were to within a thousandth of a billionth of a metre using a process called X-ray diffraction. But what made that even cooler was that I got to learn why the atoms were arranged the way they were and how the diffraction technique worked. It was a really satisfying moment. 

What is your research about?  

I’m investigating how we can store plutonium inside of ceramic materials and how radiation affects any water that touches the plutonium waste.  

This is important because the UK has over 140 tonnes of plutonium which is a by-product of nuclear fission energy production and has been used to make nuclear weapons in the past. At the moment we store it above ground (which is very expensive!) but we need to do something with it and one of the ideas is to safely dispose of it underground in a big underground repository where it will be stored for nearly 100,000 years!  

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

Sitting at a particle accelerator at 3 o’clock in the morning firing X-rays at magnets that were 200 nanometres wide to look at their properties! 

What do you see yourself doing in the future? 

I have no idea! Hopefully finding out amazing things with new materials that will help make changes to the world, whether that’s making materials for nuclear waste or something else entirely! 

What is your favourite material (and why)? 

I love lots of different materials, my favourites though are inorganic non-metals like ceramics and glasses. One in particular that I love is uranium dioxide, a ceramic material that has lots of cool and interesting properties that don’t always behave how we expect! 

What advice would you give your 16 year old self? 

Don’t be afraid to be passionate about the things that you love, there’s something cool everywhere we look in the world and wanting to know more about it will always lead to something even cooler. 

Links to any external profile pages / website you have  

Latham’s Twitter