Interview with Ella Fox-Widdows, creator of the Fusion Focused Podcast
Over the past months, we mentioned the Fusion Focused Podcast in our newsletter. In each episode, Ella Fox-Widdows, the creator of the podcast, speaks with someone in the fusion field. They talk about their work and what motivated them to make a career in fusion.
After enjoying the podcast for some months already, it is now time to put Ella in the spotlight and meet the person behind the podcast. For this article, we asked Ella some questions about her work in fusion and her podcast.
Before we delve into the podcast, what are you doing within fusion?
“I’m currently a PhD student on the UK Fusion CDT programme at the University of Liverpool, studying diagnostics for atoms and molecules in edge plasmas. My PhD project focuses on studying atomic and molecular behaviour in low temperature fusion plasmas using diagnostic techniques. Studying these particles provides information about the plasma parameters and emission for different plasma and surface conditions close to divertor surfaces.”
And next to this, you create the Fusion Focused Podcast. How did you get the idea to make a podcast about working in fusion?
“I really enjoy outreach and communication work, and had the opportunity to host the Fusion News Extra podcast as part of my work with the Fusion Industry Association (FIA). Through making this podcast for the FIA, I realised I really enjoyed podcasting and chatting with interesting people about their research. This inspired me to make my own outreach project where I could do everything from scratch and learn a lot of new skills (such as editing and distribution).”
In every episode, you speak with someone who works in the fusion field. Where do you find the people you want to speak with?
“In the first series, the guests are typically friends or colleagues who I know from either the Fusion CDT, working with the FIA, or through my role on the student council of FuseNet. I’m very lucky to know a number of enthusiastic and interesting people through these side projects, who have kindly offered me their time when I told them about my idea for a podcast. In future series I hope to reach out to people working in fusion who have different paths, not necessarily with PhDs in fusion, to showcase a broader range of available opportunities.”
How long does it take to create one episode? Do you do all of this work on your own?
“I pre-recorded and edited the first series of the podcast over summer 2021, so that it would be less stressful when releasing them every two weeks, and it typically took me a few hours per episode to finish. The time was spent contacting the guests, scheduling times to record the episodes, preparing questions for the interview by studying the guests career path, recording the episode, editing the episode and then scheduling them to release every other week on a podcast distribution site.”
What lies in the future for the podcast? What would you like to do further with it?
“The first series of the podcast currently has ten episodes already released, and there are five more to be released in this series (so fifteen in total)! I then hope to plan and record Series 2 and release it in Spring next year. I have some ideas for people I want to interview and different themed series to do, like a student series, a private fusion company series, etcetera, and hope to get another set of fifteen episodes recorded for Series 2. Anyone who is interested in joining me for an episode please get in touch, or if anyone has any ideas or recommendations for Series 2, please feel free to send me a message on Instagram or Twitter @fusionfocused :-)
For the last five episodes of Series 1 I have guests from CCFE, the Fusion CDT programme and IPP Garching, as well as some colleagues from FuseNet!”
And then, of course, the questions you always ask your guests: why did you decide to pursue a career in fusion? What do you like to do outside of work? Do you have any advice for people who are starting in fusion, or are considering it?
“I have always cared about the environment and had a passion for fighting climate change. This, combined with my lifelong love of physics, motivated me to pursue a PhD in fusion energy. Fusion combines these two passions of mine and I believe it is vital for the future of green energy and for mitigating the effects of climate change and global warming.
Outside of work, I really enjoy travelling to new places and going on adventures, film photography, and being active, and on a day at home I enjoy reading, painting, knitting or dancing around to my favourite songs! Outside of my PhD, I'm involved in various fusion outreach and communication projects including the Fusion Industry Association on YouTube, where I, alongside a team of fusion PhD students, host fortnightly fusion news updates (check them out!).
My advice for anyone interested in fusion would be to find out more info about different roles within fusion to see if it’s something you would enjoy. Apply for internships to get experience within the field, speak to teachers and professors, and research about the opportunities available. There are lots of people in the fusion community who would love to talk to you about their work!”
Where can people find the Fusion Focused Podcast?
You can listen to Fusion Focused on all the usual podcast sites (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Radio Republic, Anchor, Overcast, Breaker, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Stitcher) and you can also connect with Fusion Focused on Instagram and Twitter @fusionfocused, leave me a review or feedback or send me a message! :-)