Dr Simone Sturniolo

What are you working on at the moment?

I support various projects related to the application of computational science to magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Specifically, I develop a web app called MagresView and a Python library called Soprano to help NMR experimentalists make the best of computational tools, and I am supporting the creation of new software for the ISIS muon spectroscopy facility, one of the few of its type in the world;

What made you fall in love with physics?

I’ve liked maths, and figuring things out with trial and error, for pretty much as long as I can remember – I also used to read science magazines as a kid, and learned programming on my own while in middle school. So it’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment, I think it’s just something that really reflects well the way I like to think about the world and that comes natural to me;

What do you think will be the most important computational revolution in the next 30 years, if any?

I think we’re on the edge of the diffusion of actual commercial quantum computing. If that does happen, it will likely have a fallout effect on everything else – including possibly artificial intelligence;

If you were not a scientist, what would you be?

I used to want to be a comic book artist! I don’t know if I could have done it – my drawing skills aren’t that good – but I still like writing as a hobby, so maybe a writer for comics, or just a sci-fi/fantasy novelist;

What do you think scientist should do more or better to engage with the public?

I think language is a really important aspect of public engagement. It’s important to try and put ourselves in the minds of whoever it is that we’re talking to, and adapt our language to the one they’re familiar with, not just in terms of words, but of imagery we use. It’s very easy to slip into the habit of just giving for granted things we know, and thus assume our audience should as well. But that only makes our explanations more difficult without adding any depth.

Do you have an interesting book to suggest us?

In terms of non-fiction, I think a really amazing book is Douglas Hofstadter’s “Godel Escher Bach – An Eternal Golden Braid”. It’s a classic of scientific writing, both very deep and very pleasant, with good style and prose. In terms of fiction, I recently loved Greg Egan’s “Orthogonal” trilogy – one of the most hard science-fiction I remember reading, with a universe whose laws of physics the author rigorously rewrote from zero. Funnily enough, the fiction book may be a harder read than the non-fiction one here – it’s really THAT thought out! But if you’re one to geek out over not just science fiction, but fictional science, it’s incredible.