Who do you work for?
I am a Research Fellow at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS).
I most enjoy discovering something new and getting new ideas about designs for solar cells, as well as working with other people who love this type of work too.
What does your job involve?
I do scientific research into making better solar cells. This includes experiments, analysing data, and writing computer programs to predict what will happen. I supervise a group of 7 people and we often discuss our results. I also do some lecturing to undergraduate students.
Why did you choose to work in the renewable energy industry?
I am motivated by being able to make a contribution to developing clean energy sources and I enjoy discovering something new and getting new ideas about designs for solar cells, as well as working with other people who love this type of work too.
I always loved physics and finding out about how the world works. At first I wanted to go into astronomy, but I also recognized the huge environmental problems we would face over my lifetime, and I wanted to help. Solar energy research was a perfect combination for me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I most enjoy discovering something new and getting new ideas about designs for solar cells, as well as working with other people who love this type of work too. Plus the sheer fun of solving scientific problems
What has been one of your recent achievements?
My proudest achievement is developing a new way of increasing the efficiency of thin solar cells. We put tiny metal particles on the solar cells, and they act like little antennas, directing the light into the solar cells. There are now a lot of research groups around the world following this direction.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I’d like to be leading a group exploring radically new directions for making solar cells, mixing ideas from lots of different areas of science – more of what I’m doing now really! I’d also like to be doing more undergraduate teaching, because I really enjoy that.
What are some of the other benefits of your job?
I travel overseas regularly to present our work at conferences. The salary range in my field is
$70,000 for someone who’s just finished their PhD, up to $145,000 for a professor.
What training did you have to become a research fellow?
I went to Alfred Deakin High School and Phillip College (now Canberra College) in Canberra, where I studied maths and physics, plus chemistry and English, with a bit of computing. After I left secondary school, I completed a BSc. (Hons) at ANU, majoring in physics. Then I did PhD in solar cell engineering, also at ANU.
What is your advice to students?
Most importantly, do what you most enjoy. Secondly, if you do like maths and science, keep studying them even if you also like other areas, because they are harder to pick up later. And lastly, there are so many different areas that science can take you. For example, with my physics degree I could also have gone into bioengineering, and helped design bionic eyes, or I could have gone into ecological modelling, and helped predict the behaviour of populations of endangered species. There are so many possibilities.
Find out more
Find out more about Kylie’s work and other projects at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science by following this link: http://cecs.anu.edu.au/
See Kylie talk about her work on the New Inventors TV program by following this link: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s3203925.htm