Sally Lord

Meet...Sally Lord

Quantum materials
Condensed Matter Physics

We work among extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; get to know some of them by reading these quick-fire interviews.

Name: Sally Lord    
Job title: Graduate student, Condensed Matter Physics

What are you currently working on?
I am currently investigating spin-wave propagation in novel magnetic thin films. Spin waves are the collective excitations of magnetically ordered materials and they are a promising candidate for developing a new computing technology to overcome the end of Moore’s Law. Currently, the extensive research into spin-wave dynamics has largely been carried out in either ferromagnetic or ferrimagnetic materials. However, I am interested in looking at spin-wave dynamics in antiferromagnetic materials, since there are many unique properties of antiferromagnetic materials that would make them ideally suited for computing applications.

The problem with antiferromagnetic materials is that they typically have resonance frequencies in the THz range, which means they are very difficult to excite. However, antiferromagnets with a layered structure have resonance frequencies in the GHz range and these are the materials I am interested in studying. My work is focused on characterising the antiferromagnetic resonance of these materials and studying their spin-wave propagation dynamics. Currently, I am investigating two types of antiferromagnetic material and I am keen to conduct a comparative study of the spin-wave dynamics in both.

Describe a typical day
A typical day for me starts with a walk to work through the city centre, which helps focus me for the rest of the day. Every day in the office starts with an obligatory coffee, while I catch up with my lab mates and determine a plan for the day. Once the plan is decided, and the to-do list has been written, it is time to start the day!

I am doing an experimental PhD so usually my day is focused on doing practical work in the lab. Recently, this has involved carrying out resonance experiments on magnetic thin films but we are also trying to recommission our sputtering plant, so I have spent a lot of time testing and modifying our growth chamber.

Each day also includes an hour or so spent on other activities that I am involved with. Sometimes this means meeting with the Women in Physics Society to discuss events and ideas for the Department and sometimes it involves giving a tutorial to the undergraduates at Magdalen College, where I am a graduate tutor.

However, the main project I work on, alongside my experimental research, is a renewable energy generation project with Oxford University Innovation. This project revolves around a patented technology, which enables an induction motor to be used as an electrical generator for an off-grid wind turbine. We are interested in bringing this technology to the market, so I often spend part of my day contacting potential customers and collaborators and pitching our idea to them.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it?
Outside! I love going for walks around Oxford and exploring new parts of the nearby countryside. It is even better in the summer, when the weather is good, as there are so many beautiful swim spots hidden around Oxford. I love heading out for the day with a big picnic blanket, good book and swimming costume and just spending the whole day outside in the sun.

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
My favourite place in Oxford is Hinksey Lake; in the summer it is the best place in Oxford to go swimming and the park surrounding it is the perfect place to sit, read and sunbathe.

Plan B: what would you be if you weren’t doing the job you are currently doing?
If I wasn’t doing an experimental PhD, I would love to work as a travel writer. I love travelling and exploring new places, so if I could get paid to do it that would be amazing!