Physics researcher a radio star

  • 21 November 2023
  • 3 minutes

Talking about her work has provided a potential career avenue for Simone Eizagirre Barker (Physics PhD 2019), after she became a regular guest of a radio show.

Simone and a friend relaunched the Cambridge University Science Magazine BlueSci podcast in 2020. After being interviewed by a science magazine she was invited to be a one-off guest on a radio show in her native Basque region of Spain. She was next invited to join the editorial team who founded the Department of Physics’ official podcast, People Doing Physics, which she still co-hosts.

And now Simone has a 10-minute segment, fortnightly, on Euskadi Irratia, the Basque Autonomous Community’s public broadcast radio.

“It’s a chat between me and the host,” she says. “It’s live radio, you have to be prepared. I come up with the topics and general script for the discussion.”

For Simone appearing on radio was about saying ‘yes’ to opportunities.

She adds: “There’s so many things you can explore at university. I wouldn’t be on the radio just now if I hadn’t started podcasting with BlueSci almost four years ago when I started my PhD. Not everything has to be part of a 10-year plan, you can just do things because they sound interesting and see how it goes. That’s something I’ve tried to maintain, and it’s opened a lot of serendipitous doors.”

The rise of the machine (learning) with Gonville & Caius College Fellow Dr Gareth Conduit featured on the People Doing Physics podcast

Simone has used her segment so far to discuss the Nobel Prize, computer giant IBM’s plans for a new quantum computer centre in Donostia, in the Basque region, and the United Kingdom returning to Horizon Europe following a post-Brexit absence.

She adds: “I really do enjoy journalism. I’ve always done it as a side project, but as more and more opportunities have come up, I’ve realised people are responding positively to work that I’m doing and inviting me to be part of new opportunities.

“I’m interested in the implications and impact of science – the relationship science has with society. How we discuss science infrastructure and innovation, ethics of new technologies, how science can address global challenges…”

Simone is nearing the end of her own PhD and considering what happens next. In 2021 she was awarded the largest and most prestigious scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, for her potential contributions to the field. Her research on experimental quantum optics is about studying the quantum mechanics of new materials to see how they could be useful for light-based quantum technologies in the future.

There are personal reasons which contribute to her motivation to feature on the radio. It gives her an opportunity to speak Basque, which she does almost solely with her family and childhood friends, and an opportunity to talk in Basque about science, a subject she has mostly studied in English.

She adds: “It creates a link between my life in Cambridge and back home; it’s nice to feel what I’m doing is not isolated. My friends and family can listen to it, and it’s an amazing opportunity to think about the world of science in a wider context.”

You can find the Cavendish Laboratory’s People Doing Physics podcast on all platforms, or listen to Simone live on Euskadi Irratia at 10:20am GMT+1 every other Friday.