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Jessica Hamilton

Beamline scientist

Beamline scientist at ANSTO

Working at the Australian Synchrotron allows Jessica Hamilton to experiment and be creative

When Jessica first started her science degree, the geoscience lecturer opened with: “Do you want to learn about volcanoes, dinosaurs and space?” “I was sold,” Jessica says. She dropped physics in favour of geology, and today works as a beamline scientist at the Australian Synchrotron in a job that is very varied and in a facility that she says “looks like something out of a sci-fi film”.

“I’ve gotten to work on so many cool projects in my time here, from Antarctic sediments, to molten rock, nanoparticles, batteries, and more,” she says. The beamline Jessica works on is one of many at the facility, which hosts different groups of visiting scientists every few days.

“My job is to set up the beamline and optimise it for their experiment, troubleshoot any issues, and train the scientists in how to operate the instruments to get the most out of their data,” Jessica explains. In her research she’s developing a process that uses mining waste rock for carbon sequestration and critical metal recovery (mainly nickel and cobalt).

“With the explosion of renewable tech and battery storage, we need to make sure the raw materials for these things are produced in more sustainable and ethical ways,” Jessica says.

One of the biggest lessons she’s learnt is that research requires a lot of creativity. “The key to doing research is actually to just try something new! That felt very freeing to me – to no longer feel a mountain of existing knowledge looming ahead of me, and to stop worrying about being right or wrong.”

What is a Synchrotron?

The Australian Synchrotron is a circular technology, about the size of a football field, that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. When the electrons go around a circular path, they give off energy in the form of incredibly bright light. That X-ray and infrared light is directed to ‘beamlines’, where researchers use it to advance our knowledge of everything from medical science to agriculture.

Fun fact

The Australian Synchroton has been used as a movie set.

Jessica’s top career tip

“Follow what you enjoy, not the path that you think you ‘should’ take, and don’t stress if you have no idea where you belong.”

Jessica’s study and career path to becoming a beamline scientist at ANSTO

  • Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) (Honours), Monash University
  • Technical assistant, IPB Petroleum
  • Intern, Earth Systems
  • Teaching associate, Monash University
  • PhD in Environmental Mineralogy, Monash University
  • Beamline scientist, Australian Synchrotron (ANSTO)

This profile was brought to you in partnership with ANSTO and a version of it was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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