Ashley Cadby

Thank you to everyone who voted for me, I had a great time and your questions we awesomehank you to everyone who voted for me, I had a great time and your questions were awesome

Favourite Thing: My favourite thing about science is that it’s always different. So my favourite thing to do today will be different from what I would tell you next week. At the moment I am enjoying building a new type of microscope to look at bacteria.



I went to Light Hall School, in the West Midlands for my GSCEs. I took A levels at Solihull Sixth Form College. My Undergraduate and Ph.D I took at the University of Sheffield.


I have a M.Phys in Physics and a Ph.D. For my Ph.D I studied solid state physics.

Work History:

I have worked for varying amounts of time in Los Angeles (UCLA), Iows State University, The University of Utah, Technical university of Graz, Austria and of course Sheffield University.

Current Job:

I am on EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow. This means that I get to try lots of different pieces of science, a little like science sushi.


Technically I think I am employed by the Engineering and Physical sciences research council (EPSRC) but I work at the University of Sheffield.

Me and my work

I build microscopes to look at very small things. We have microscopes to look at single atoms, single molecules and bacteria.

The microscopes that you see in everyday use produce wonderful images and using them we have learnt much about how the world works.  However, they stop working when you try to look at very small small things such as single molecules.  If you want to know why this is ask me.  So we use all the tricks we can think of to see things normal light would not let us. This type of science is very puzzle based, if we want to look at something really small we have to use what we know about the sample to cheat physics. Ask me about some of the ways we try to cheat.

My Typical Day

Most of my day is spent talking to other scientists about how we can look at there samples. Sometimes some one will want to see the colour of a single molecules another day they might want to see inside a living fish.

What I'd do with the money

I would either use it as a down payment on the new Aston Martin or buy my group a really nice coffee machine. Ok really I would pay for an artist to take the images we make and turn them in to art, I would then give this art away to coffee shops and museums, schools as talking points.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Awesome, brilliant and modest.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

At the moment I really like Zero 7, Powderfinger and a few South Korean pop bands.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Living in Los Angeles, it was a lot of fun.

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

To be able to work all over the world, whenever I wanted to. A nice house in Lisbon. Another nice house on the Californian cost.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I really wanted to be a Chemist (don’t tell anyone). I ended up being a Physicist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, when I was younger, quite often.

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

That’s difficult to answer, other scientist would pick the work I have written about in journals. I think the best thing I have done in science is to build new experiments.

Tell us a joke.

Other stuff

Work photos:


We use lasers to make sure we get enough light on to the sample myimage2, here is a picture of red, green and blue lasers being combined to make white light.  We can then use these lasers to look at a variety of samples, here we can see a nomad microscope image of a bacteria myimage10

and an image taken using our special microscope myimage5

and a collection of bacteria myimage6.

So how do we do this, well if we use a big enough laser the molecules in the bacteria which glow start to blink, here is a movie. myimage8.

Because there are only a few molecules in each movie frame we can actually work out where each molecule is (there are no other molecules getting in the way).


A picture by Leo Gross of Carbons and Hydrogens taken using atomic force microscopy.  The fuzzy bumps around the edge are hydrogen atoms myimage9.