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Catherine Towers

Senior Research Fellow, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Country of Birth: United Kingdom

Educational Background: PhD Engineering, BSc Mathematics, Warwick University, United Kingdom

Catherine TowersWho or what inspired you to work in science/engineering?
My initial motivation to enter research was through reading some of the works of Albert Einstein-in particular, his efforts to generate a unified field theory. This topic remains unresolved, and it made me realize there were still important challenges in science that even the greatest minds had not found
solutions to. I later saw some double-pulsed holograms of transonic flow instabilities taken by my PhD supervisor, Prof. Bryanston-Cross, from a wind tunnel test, and I read some of Gabor's papers on holography, which led me to optical engineering. During my PhD, I went on to spend some time at
the ETH in Zürich where riding on the trams reminded me of what inspired Einstein and his thoughts about the speed of light. In my later career I have enjoyed organizing conferences with Joanna Schmit and Kathy Creath, whose papers I studied in my early years in optical engineering.

Primary responsibilities of your current job
My research is centered on metrology, which is the science of measurement. One can think of this as posing the question: how long is a piece of string? Ultimately working in optics, light forms a measure, as the wavelength of light can be thought of as a ruler extending along a beam of light. Modern techniques enable one to work out exactly where you are along that ruler with an uncertainty of less than 1/1000th of the diameter of a human hair. In my work, I am interested in extending the range over which such accurate measurements can be made and applying these principles to measurement challenges in the sciences and engineering.

My primary responsibilities as an academic encompass research, teaching, and administration. Teaching includes  undergraduate courses as well as the supervision of fi nal-year projects that relate to my research interests and PhD students.

Biggest obstacle or challenge that you have faced in your career
My biggest challenge has been trying to balance family life with research. I have been very lucky in having a husband who has always supported the family and we are fortunate enough to both enjoy life with our two sons, Michael and Christopher, and share a love of optical physics together.