Olivia Lynes

Vote for me!! Evictions are coming.

Favourite Thing: You never stop learning! I love finding out new things and learning how to use them. I get completely lost in my reading sometimes, I will have started looking up the properties of an element and ended up reading a paper about soil composition.



I went to Highworth Grammar School for Girls 2001-2008, then took a gap year before going to University at UCL 2009-2014.


11 GCSEs, 3 A-levels, an AS in maths and a masters in chemistry

Work History:

I worked in a hotel all through school as a waitress/housekeeper/receptionist and barmaid this was probably my favourite job. Then I was a temp all through university and worked in LOADS of different offices all over London, either as a receptionist, a personal assistant, some sort of admin help, I even did a summer as a school PA.

Current Job:

I’m a PhD student, which is basically a baby scientist. I don’t know enough to do my own research so I’ll spend the next 4 years being trained how to do it properly.


Lancaster University

Me and my work

I use supercomputers to investigate the waste products of the nuclear industry and hopefully find a solution!

Nuclear is a really efficient way to produce energy, but it does produce waste that we aren’t 100% sure what to do with, and because it’s radioactive it doesn’t just go away. There is lots of waste being stored in ponds from the 1950s and ’60s, and over time this has made a sludge. Which is probably as gross as it sounds. Luckily I don’t work with the sludge!

As we know roughly what is in the sludge, I can use computer models, and get my supercomputer to do some very complicated maths to try to find out what is exactly in the sludge. That way the government and other scientists can come up with a plan to get rid of it.

The posh way of saying that is I am a Computational Chemist, but people tend to run scared if I describe my job like that.

My Typical Day

My day consists of lots of quantum chemistry, coffee and reading.

The first thing I do when I get to work is turn my computer on and log into my super computers. The super computers I use speak a different “language” to my normal computer so I have to access them through something called a shell which lets me type in their language, but I can still use the rest of my computer normally.

Once I’m logged in I check any calculations I had running when I left the day before. If it’s been a good day they will all have worked and I can have a look at the results- sometimes this is just a list of numbers, other times it’s a little video of how the molecule wiggles around. If it’s been a bad day then some will have failed so I have to figure out why they have failed and re-run the calculations. While this sounds like a massive pain, if they fail it’s normally for the same reason, or at least one of the reasons I have come across before.

I’ll run any new calculations after having done this. Depending on the calculation I’m running it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of days to finish. In fact I have run calculations that have taken a month to complete. This gives me a chance to check my emails, talk to my supervisor about what is working and what isn’t working and grab a coffee.

My calculations just run in the background.

As I’m still learning a lot of my day is spent reading what other researchers have done before and making sure I understand it. This helps me plan what I’m going to do next, and make sure I’m not just repeating someone else’s mistakes.

Quite often I will have a report to write on the research I have done, or a presentation to prepare or even a poster to write. My work is part of a national group project to do with Nuclear Sludge that meets every 6 months to discuss our progress which is where the presentations and posters come in.

What’s great about computational chemistry is that my experiments carry on without me. I can go to a meeting or be at a conference for a day with my calculations running in the background. Science never stops!

What I'd do with the money

I want to plan a science fun day in Lancaster

I’ve been a volunteer at these days before and they are always great for getting people excited about science and showing them how to do it in their own homes.

The idea is to have a range of different stalls around a venue each with a different science experiment for people to come and try, and then get them to figure out the science behind it.

Hopefully I’ll even get a booklet printed for them to take away so they can continue doing science by themselves.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Independent, optimistic and adaptable.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Oh this is tricky, I don’t really listen to much music because I get distracted singing along! Probably Queen just for the dramatic air guitar that goes with it.

What's your favourite food?

Bacon bagels, or my mum’s roast dinner.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to New York with a friend and we went in a helicopter ride over the city. It was amazing!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be a forensic scientist. But I’d landed there after wanting to be a vet, interior designer, farmer, singer or teacher.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No, I was a complete goodie two shoes!

What was your favourite subject at school?

It was joint between Chemistry and R.E.

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

I got my degree! I nearly didn’t finish it so it’s my greatest achievement so far.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Lots of people. Probably my teachers. We were always told we could do anything as long as we could work for it. I think that lack of limitation at a young age really helped me focus even when it got tricky.

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

My Dad likes to joke I would have been a priest. But I have no idea! So probably going from job to job trying to figure it out.

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

1. To be able to speak Spanish, I keep trying! 2. To be able to run the 5K I have planned for the end of February without the knee that I dislocated falling off in a freak running accident 3. To be able to travel all over the world for free!

Tell us a joke.

What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish? You can’t tuna fish!

Other stuff

Work photos: