After just one year of post-doctoral research
Helen Fielding was offered a university lectureship. But
this shouldn't have been a surprise. As an undergraduate
at Newnham College, Cambridge, she received various awards
and finished with a first-class degree.
When Helen came to consider her doctorate, her ability
and interest in chemistry and mathematics meant that she
would look to do research work in an area that combined
both disciplines. Research work can take you to unexpected
places, and while engaged in a final-year project, she happened
upon ideal Ph.D. material. This involved looking at the
'Rydberg states' of nitric oxide. Rydberg states are highly
excited atoms whose outer electrons have almost, but not
quite, enough energy to escape atomic confinement.
After her Ph.D. Helen began working in laser physics at
the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington. She moved
on to a research fellowship at the University of Amsterdam,
enjoying the fact that she could concentrate on research
without having to teach. But eighteen months later she found
herself having to overcome first-time lecture nerves. Used
to monitoring the dynamics of electrons in atoms, as a lecturer
at King's College London Helen was now faced with the mobile
attention spans of students.
Since 1994 Helen has been researching and teaching in the
Department of Physical Chemistry at Kings and has established
a large research group with over £1 million of research
council funding. Her general interests are in the electronic
and molecular dynamics of small molecules in the gas phase.
She made the first observation of a Rydberg electron wavepacket
in a molecule and is now developing new experiments to control
electronic and molecular dynamics in these systems using
carefully phased or shaped pulses of light. In 1996 her
research brought her the Royal Society of Chemistry Harrison
Prize and in 2000 the Marlow Medal. She was aslo recently
awarded a five-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research
Council Advanced Research Fellowship (200106).
Department, King's College London
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