Lauren McQueen

  • PhD student
  • EQUS
  • University of Queensland
  • Road-tripping Brisbane to Port Macquarie (2022)

What do you do?

We use the special effects of how the smallest building blocks of the Universe interact to make devices that can detect very quiet and far-away sounds.  Normally, these devices are the size of a jelly-bean or bigger, but we can make them smaller than a single grain of sand!

How did you get to where you are today?

In grade 12, I wasn’t quite sure what to study in university, but knew that I really enjoyed physics and mathematics so my physics teacher suggested that I apply for a really good science degree and go from there.  I ended up studying a Bachelor of Advanced Science with a physics major, then completed my honours research project.  After that, I started my PhD in physics (specifically, optomechanical sensing), which I’m about 6 months into.  I tried to test out a lot of fields of physics during my undergraduate study, and ended up choosing the area of physics I’m in now because optics and optomechanics became some of my favourite fields of physics to study in my undergraduate degree, and I like that there’s an extremely wide and varied range of real-world applications to explore.

What’s the best thing about your work?

It’s difficult to choose the best thing about my work, but one of the best things would be the variety of tasks I get to do on a week-to-week basis.  My tasks range from designing devices using computer software and fabricating those devices in cleanroom laboratories, to testing the devices in another laboratory, and sometimes even taking them out of the laboratory to test them in real-world environments.  It’s rare for two weeks to ever be the same!

What advice would you give to someone considering studying physics?

If you’re studying physics, or science in general, try to test out as many fields of your area of science as you can.  Try to make sure that you take a variety of classes and make an effort to listen to talks that may be out of your area of interest too, because you might find out about a field that you never would have otherwise.  I definitely wouldn’t have thought I’d be doing the PhD in the area I am today if you’d asked me in year 12, but that was because I didn’t know that it existed!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I really enjoy crafting, particularly crocheting, hiking (the Blue Mountains and Sunshine Coast hinterland are some of my favourite spots), watching movies, listening to music, and cooking or going out to dinner with my friends.  I’ve also started to dabble in rock-climbing, and I’m very keen to start travelling more now that the world is opening up again!

Anything else?

I’m very excited to get on the road for this road trip and meet and talk to lots of interesting people!

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