Hazel Garvie-Cook

Favourite Thing: Microscopy – it amazes me that with microscopes we can see objects that are 100,000 times smaller than the width of a hair



The Stephen Perse Foundation for GCSE and 6th Form, Durham University for my undergraduate degree, Bath University for my postgraduate degree


11 GCSE’s (5 A*’s, 6 A’s), 3 A-Levels (3 A’s), Masters in Physics (First Class), PhD

Work History:

Before starting this job, I worked as a Researcher at the University of Bath in drug delivery to the skin

Current Job:

Applications Scientist in the Spectroscopy Products Division



About Me

I’m a scientist at an engineering company, applying Physics to really varied applications.

I’m new to Bristol after moving here from Bath. I love the city and can’t wait to get to know it better. I started climbing when I moved to Bristol – I’m leaning the ropes on indoor walls at the minute but am hoping to get outdoors over the summer. In general I’m happiest when outdoors, camping, walking or swimming.

My Work

From counterfeit bank notes to the first stages of disease, I use lasers and a microscope to reveal the hidden information that the eye can’t see.

I work as an Applications Scientist at an engineering company which makes microscopes. What this means is that I work towards selling and developing a particular kind of microscope for use by companies or universities. This microscope uses powerful lasers which interact with samples and produce a tiny signal of light that the microscope then detects. Using this signal, you can work out all kinds of information about the sample, including what it’s made of. The microscopes have been used for picking up small traces of drugs in people’s fingerprints, finding cancer in biological tissue and  imaging single layers of carbon atoms (graphene) for use in future technologies.

My Typical Day

Days are really varied; I could be in the lab, working on some samples sent in by customers, attending conferences, holding training workshops, or writing scientific papers or magazine articles.

What I really like about my job is the variety – every week we’re sent different samples from people around the world interested in our kind of microscope. These samples can come from companies in really varied industries or from people working on cutting-edge research at universities. We also get people coming in for demonstrations and training on the equipment. I really enjoy meeting people and hearing about the interesting work they’re doing and what they want to find out about using the microscope.

What I'd do with the money

Set up projects to encourage lots of young people from all backgrounds to go into science

I definitely felt whilst I was at school and at university that I wasn’t good enough or clever enough to be a scientist. There are so many people that could contribute so much to science, but don’t feel that they can and that stops them. I’d like to set up some small projects to run with groups from schools, to show how accessible work in science can be, and how different mindsets and approaches can work together really effectively to contribute to what we know.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

interested, enthusiastic, easygoing

Who is your favourite singer or band?

My taste in music is pretty terrible! I love a bit of Abba.

What's your favourite food?

My grandmother’s Greek, so I’ve been brought up with a love of Greek food.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to Madagascar a couple of years ago and that was a really fun adventure! The animals there, like lemurs and chameleons, were amazing to see in the wild.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I’ve never really known what I wanted to be. I’ve followed what I’ve found exciting and interesting, and I really enjoy the job that that’s lead me to.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really

What was your favourite subject at school?

Design & Technology – I loved the practical side of it and still use a table I made for GCSE!

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

I once used a beam of high energy atoms to remove a tiny sample of tooth for microscopy experiments. The sample was 20 microns in width and height, and 0.5 microns thick. There are 1000 microns in just 1 millimetre, so you can get an idea of how small the sample was! By looking at teeth in that much detail, we can work out more about toothache and how to make toothpaste better.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Dad was probably my biggest inspiration – whenever I’d ask him questions when I was younger, he’d make me think and work out the answer. That was quite frustrating! But it’s good preparation for becoming a scientist. When you’re working on something that has never been done before, no one’s there to give you the answer, so you have to work it out yourself!

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

I was thinking about becoming an Architect, but chose to do Physics at university as there are lots of different things you can do with a Physics degree.

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

I wish I’d cared less about what people thought at school, I wish I had more holidays and I wish I had a dog, I love dogs.

Tell us a joke.

Never trust an atom – they make up everything.

Other stuff

Work photos: