Richard Simons

I'm in the final round :) thanks guys!

Favourite Thing: Explore new ideas and play with cool technologies



West Bridgford Comprehensive & 6th Form 2000-2007; Imperial College London 2007-Present


GCSE’s: 3A*, 4A, 3B; A-Level: A(Maths), B(Chemistry), B(Physics); 1st class MEng Materials Science & Engineering; PhD (hopefully very soon)

Work History:

3 month internship at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, various teaching roles involving maths/computing and a lot of time serving in pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars

Current Job:

PhD student in the Department of Materials


Imperial College London

Me and my work

I’m developing a way to purify water with light, zapping bacteria to give clean drinking water

Ultraviolet (UV) light is the reason you get a sun tan on holiday, and why you burn if you’re not careful and wear sun cream; it’s the same as visible light (red, green, blue, etc.), but has a much higher energy and you can’t see it with the naked eye.

Sun burn occurs when the cells in our skin get too much UV and are damaged. The same things happen to bacteria (the cells in dirty water that can make us sick if we drink it), and so we’re trying to blast these bugs with enough UV to kill them and make the water safe.

I’ve written a simulation which models how light travels through water, trying to get the maximum brightness throughout a treatment chamber. When we know what the best design is we build it and start making dirty water safe to drink.

We’re focussing on using LEDs (light emitting diodes) as our UV source because they’re small, cheap, strong and long lasting.

My Typical Day

I test loads of designs for water treatment devices and use my simulation to determine which is the best.

By looking at how evenly each bit of the treatment chamber is lit we can get the most efficient design and make the most of every bit of light.

What I'd do with the money

I’ve just started working to develop a physical materials library where we can showcase weird and wonderful materials, so the money would be great to help towards that :)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Ready for adventure

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Black Keys

What's your favourite food?

Tom ka Gai (spicy coconut Thai soup)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Bungee jumped off a 220m dam

What did you want to be after you left school?

An inventor

Were you ever in trouble at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?

I really liked electronics (Design & Technology option), also chemistry

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

I recently had some of my work published in a scientific journal, that was pretty awesome

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

It just sort of happened really, I always enjoyed learning about new things and that naturally led me to where I am now

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

I guess I’d hope that I’d be working for a charity, something where I’m making an impact and helping others

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

That I graduate on time! That I can carry on doing work that I enjoy; and world peace ;)

Tell us a joke.

Other stuff

Work photos: