James Boone

Cheerios for breakfast!

Favourite Thing: Writing small computer codes of my own that work! It’s a great feeling to have a computer do things for you that would otherwise take you a lifetime by hand! I also get to work with loads of great people and go to different places all over the world.



Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys


2004-2008 at University of Sussex, degree in Theoretical Physics

Work History:


University of Sussex

Current Job:

PhD Student

Me and my work

Studying the damage that occurs in graphite as a result of neutron irradiation.

My work is funded by EDF energy. EDF are in charge of operating the Nuclear reactors in the UK. 20% of our electricity is generated by nuclear power, so it’s a very important energy resource. Several of the nucelar reactors rely on Graphite as both a structural and working component. The role of graphite, other than being a structural componentof the core, is to slow down fast neutrons emitted by fission reactions of the Uranium fuel. These fast neutrons slowly damage the graphite through collisions, and this has to be monitored and measured regularly. My job is to model graphite on a tiny atomic scale to help EDF understand what properties of the graphite are being changed by the damage and how this may effect it on a large scale. Our work can go towards making a safety case to keep a graphite moderated reactor running or not.

My Typical Day

Writing computer code to create folds and other defects in graphite, looking at simulated atomic structures and reading scientific papers related to my field.

My day starts out by checking my emails and sitting down with our research group at coffee and discussing the latest news and research in our field. I will have a look online at our resources to see if anyone has published new and interesting data on carbon materials. Our group run calculations for many different structures, mainly carbon based, using some very specialist software. This software is installed on a big computer at Sussex University that enables us to start with a few hundred atoms in a particular arrangement of our choice and ask the software to re-arrange them to how they would most likely do so in reality (called a structural optimisation). These final structures and their associated energies can be really important, as they may discover new defects or reactions that we didn’t expect! I also write some computer code (in a computer language called Fortran) to create big structures and crystals that would otherwise take me years to do by hand as the equations required can be quite long. At the moment I’m writing up the research I’ve been doing over the last 3 years to create a thesis, so a lot of my day is spent reading and writing carbon science.

What I'd do with the money

Encourage students to start a science club and a corresponding science newsletter

I would donate the prize money to a local school to enable the students to start a science club. The money would pay for science club members to attend a trip to an interactive science museum. I would also like for the science club to start a short monthly newsletter designed by the students containing short articles on current science issues. The newsletter would then enable communication of science between all the students in the school. I would continue to have a personal link with the school and contribute to their science newsletter.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Sensible, patient, inquisitive

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Smashing Pumpkins

What is the most fun thing you've done?


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

To be rich, to spend more time reading, for all the Formula 1 races to be on the BBC and not SKY this year

What did you want to be after you left school?

A veterenarian

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Rarely, I was one of the quiet ones.

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

Had the opportunity to work at the University of California, LA for research collaboration.

Tell us a joke.

Venison’s dear isn’t it?