Chris Armstrong

Tomorrow there will be Haf as many of us!!

Favourite Thing: Seeing theory play out in the real world. It’s like predicting the future…



2005-2010 Sudbury Upper & 6th Form, 2010-2011 Swansea University, 2011-2014 University of Hertfordshire, 2014- Rutherford Appleton Laboratory/University Of Strathclyde


BSc Phyiscs (with a year in industry)

Work History:

2012-2013 IBM, 2014- Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Current Job:

PhD Student


Rutherford Appleton Laboratory/University of Strathclyde

Me and my work

I’m a PhD Student working with some of the most powerful lasers in the world to generate tailor made x-ray pulses capable of imaging industrial scale objects.

First year PhD student working at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to delivery high resolution radiographs for industry applications. Laser-Solid interactions produce incredibly bright and energetic x-ray sources, capable of imaging complex and dense objects on a single shot basis.

I’ve been working on new detectors and diagnostics to further advance the imaging, including higher energy detectors, and high rep-rate readout devices.

My Typical Day

Coffee, coding, and collaborating.

  • Arise, grumbling at my alarm
  • Coffee #1
  • Drive to work.
  • Arrive
  • Coffee #2
  • Tackle one of three ongoing analysis problems.
  • Make progress
  • FFT working better than expected, results
  • Matlab crash…
  • Coffee #3
  • Work on summary report.
  • Notice a gap in the data analysis
  • Immediately work to plug it
  • Make progress
  • Blast some EDM, rock out at my desk, manic typing.
  • Coffee #4
  • Start adding new data to the summary report
  • Realise there’s something wrong with my conclusion…
  • Mess up own hair in thought, pained expression on face.
  • Coffee #5
  • Subconscious throws up answer to Matlab issue
  • Fix matlab issue
  • Runs flawlessly
  • Feeling smug
  • Coffee #6
  • Read that paper the boss sent over a week ago
  • Read a few more papers linked to it.
  • Discuss with colleague/boss
  • Start working on one of the other problems.
  • Leave work.
  • Coffee #7

What I'd do with the money

I want to spend the money popping balloons

I should explain.

The international year of light is a UN initiative to raise awareness in all things “light science”. I, along with colleagues, have been involved demonstrating the numerous applications and advances in laser science.

Recently we took part in the Science Museum Lates event, and as part of our exhibit we have a laser system capable of popping a balloon. It’s at best “iffy”, being only able to pop a few balloons before giving up for the night.

Should I win, I’d like to purchase and build a more durable version of kit, I’ve had some ideas already on improvements to make but unfortunately people start asking questions if I just take lasers out of the lab… with the money I can purchase my own kit and no longer have to deal with those questions.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?


Who is your favourite singer or band?

Milky Chance – you’re welcome

What's your favourite food?

Griddled Seabass

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I purposely fell out of planes for while, that was dope.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Physicist/Professional Nerd

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I once set my hair on fire in a chemistry lesson to prove a point, what do you think?

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

During post experiment analysis I had roughly 1000 images to look at, convert from readout to PSL, and then save in a viable format. Should have taken days, I wrote a code that did it in 20minutes. Oh so satisfying.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

You can never run out of puzzles in science, something always needs figuring out.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Secret Agent

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

1. House with a basketball court in, half court – I’m not greedy. 2. A coffee butler. 3. Infinite Wishes… duh.

Tell us a joke.

A neutron walks into a bar, and the barman says absolutely nothing, he can’t see the neutron, he can’t tell its there, it’s like crazy small, he just keeps wiping down the bar, the neutron eventually leaves fed up of being ignored, everywhere else he usually gets free drinks.

Other stuff

Work photos:

A whistle stop tour of my lab and desk.

Well the lab, in all its glory looks like this: myimage1

Face it guys real science is always a little messy. The very bottom of that picture is the door to the laser chamber, and inside that sits this target wheel myimage6

Those sheets on the wheel (not the horseshoe magnet) get hit with the laser pulse from behind, drives an electron current through the target and kicks out a burst of x-rays.

Using these x-rays and these diagnostics myimage7myimage5 the x-ray source can be measured and objects imaged. The only draw back of the lab is that after time spent there, you go a little crazy and start naming inanimate objects… such as my laser goggles “Scar”. Say hello: myimage4


My desk on the other hand, has the all important multiscreen battlestation arrangement: myimage2

Complete with a laptop or two for when I need to work in a comfy chair.

Desk work has perils as well, MatlabMadness is a real thing and can present in many forms, the first and most important sign is deranged comments appearing at the top of scripts…