Euan Allen

Enjoying the brilliant questions!

Favourite Thing: Coming up with new experiments to perform is a lot of fun, and can also be really exciting! You never really know if it will work or not until you build it and try.



Peers School (2002-2007), St. Gregory the Great (2007-2009), The University of Manchester (2009-2013), The University of Bristol (2014-now)


10 GCSE’s, 3 A-levels, and a physics degree.

Work History:

My very first job was in the corner shop where I used to live. I then went to university, where I did small placements at the MoD and Oxford University. After that I worked in a bar and at a science interactive centre in Cardiff for a year. Now I work in Bristol.

Current Job:

I’m currently studying for a post-graduate degree (PhD) in physics.


The University of Bristol

About Me

I’m 25 years old and live in Bristol.

My name is Euan and I moved to Bristol two years ago with my girlfriend Fola (now fiancée!). When I’m not working or doing science I love to watch rugby, which I used to play when I was younger. I also host a student radio show with a few friends, which runs every Monday at 6pm. The show is called “Soul Train” and is an hour of music from the soul, funk and disco genres.

My Work

I work with big, powerful lasers to try and see if we can make a computer using particles of light called photons.

I’m currently doing a PhD in Bristol, which means I’m studying for a qualification you can get after you’ve complete your university degree. The qualification is based around doing research on a particular subject. My research is based on different things that we can do with light and with particles of light called photons. What I am particularly interested in is whether we can build a computer using light, and not just any old computer, but a special type called a quantum computer. This crazy device is a computer that is based on the weird world of quantum mechanics, and we want to try to build one because it can do some things better than the computers we use at the moment. We hope this will useful for a whole range of problems in the world.

My Typical Day

I spend a lot of my time working in a dark room, as light from the outside can ruin my experiment! When I escape into the light, I spend lots of time at my desk programming simulations of my experiment.

The first thing I usually do when I get in, is go and make a cup of tea whilst I answer all the emails I got from the day before. I then spend the morning reading about other research that people are doing before then going into the lab. In the lab I spend lots of time aligning optics, which involves moving mirrors and things to make sure the light is going in the right place (and not in my eyes). After lunch, I then spend the afternoon either in the lab, in meetings with my supervisor, or at my PC doing simulations to see if the next part of my experiment will work. I also sometimes spend some time teaching people about physics and doing talks and presentations.

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to buy equipment which allows me to go in to school to teach students about how animals can control light to their advantage.

One of the things that I find really interesting is how animals have evolved to be able to manipulate light in particular ways. My favourite example is this beautiful butterfly called the “blue morpho butterfly” (or Morpho rhetenor if you want to use it’s fancy name). There are lots more animals that can do this too, like hummingbirds, peacocks, fish, and beetles.


The males of this amazing butterfly species have an incredible irredescent blue colour on the front of the wing, which scientist believe they use to communicate with other males. What’s interesting about the colour is that it is produced in a very unique way. The structure of the wing is what causes the colour, as there are repeating scales on the wing that means that only blue light gets reflected back (the wings themselves are actually brown – crazy, right?).

If I won, the money I would pay for a set of small USB microscopes and some butterfly samples (and other samples of animals that do similar things). I would then love to take these into schools so that the students can learn about these amazing animals, how they interact with light, and how we can use that to make useful things!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Funk, Food and Fun

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Ooo, tough question. Either the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Aretha Franklin.

What's your favourite food?

A bacon sandwich

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I was in Dr. Who once!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A Physiotherapist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No, not really.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Sports studies/P.E.

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

I went into Westminster to speak to MPs about my research

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My maths and physics teachers

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

I’d love to be a radio presenter

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

I wish I could teleport anywhere (I hate travelling!). I wish I could time travel (I’d love to see what the future was like and how science had evolved). And obviously, I’d wish that I had more wishes.

Tell us a joke.

What does a nosey pepper do? Get jalapeño business.

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is me in the lab. We don’t work with any nasty chemicals so I don’t have to wear a lab coat. Sometimes we have to wear safety goggles (which are basically sunglasses) so that we can work with the bright light coming from the laser.

In the lab we have lots of things. We have big, bright lasers (powerful enough to burn things!) that look like this.

Because these lasers can be dangerous, especially if you get them in your eye, then we have lights on the doors outside.

We have lots of cool things in the lab as well as the laser. The image below shows you one of the experiments going on currently. Here we are trying to perform different experiments with light, but where the light has been focused onto a tiny piece of material called silicon. We can control the light using wires and heaters and get it to move around different parts of the small chip to perform our experiments. What we try to do is make a computer using the wires and light. This works in exactly the same way as you can make a computer with electricity (electrons) and wires.

The experiment.

One of the tiny silicon chips that contains the experiment.

You can see how small it is when compared with my house keys!

Here is what the experiment looks like if you zoom right onto it using a microscope.

When I’m out of the lab I spend time at my desk, which has a bobbing Mr. Bean (he wiggles his hips) that cheers me up when the sun comes out.
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