Emily Filmer

  • PhD student
  • CDM
  • University of Adelaide
  • Road-tripping around VIC/NSW

What do you do?

I’m using the biggest machine in the world to learn about the smallest building blocks of our Universe!  There’s so much we have to discover, and I’m looking for new particles that might explain why there’s so much mass in our Universe that we can’t see.  I also get to help build the new inner part of the detector that will help us collect more data and help us further understand the particles that we’re made from.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve been interested in physics all my life—it started when I was 3 and my dad was watching a Richard Feynmann documentary, and I think I just decided that was what I was going to do.  Space was the thing that interested me the most as a kid, and I ended up doing my undergraduate degree in space science and astrophysics at the University of Adelaide, including a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh.  After that, I was offered the opportunity to work on the ATLAS experiment with the Higgs boson, still at Adelaide, which I had been learning more about in my last years of high school, and I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve been studying high-energy particles ever since!

What’s the best thing about your role?

I love the variation!  Some days, I sit at a computer, working on data analysis, getting code to work and talking to my colleagues from all over the world.  Other days, I get to go into the lab and use glue and soldering irons and plug in equipment to make it work.  I have recently travelled to CERN, in Switzerland, to attend workshops and meet some of my collaborators in person.  Every day there is a new challenge to solve.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying science?

It’s okay to not understand things—stay curious, ask questions and try to find answers from a different place.  Sometimes you just need to learn things a different way!  Learn to think critically about information, but never lose your sense of wonder when you find out a cool new fact.  Being able to listen to and learn from others, as well as share your own ideas, is one of the most important skills you can have.

What do you enjoy doing besides physics?

I have so many hobbies!  I’m an avid knitter, I sew my own clothes and I’m learning to quilt.  I sing in a couple of choirs, one of which has let me sing my way through cathedrals in England.  I also do ballet, and I’ve recently taken up Scottish country dancing!  Making time for things I enjoy outside of physics is really important to me—it helps keep everything in perspective and allows me to come back to my work with a fresh headspace.

I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion in STEM, and am one of the Adelaide Node Representatives for the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Centre for Dark Matter.

Fun fact:

I hate coffee, both the taste and the smell!  People always assume that because I’m a scientist/PhD student, I’ll need it to get through the day, but I leave that task to my enormous collection of fancy teas.

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