Simon Holyoake

how did I manage that?? thanks for all the votes and thanks to my fellow scientists for a great 2 weeks!

Favourite Thing: I love making things to enable science to be carried out, instruments, experimental rigs, field gear and general widgets, I love it all!



De Montfort University, 2002-2005


BEng(Hons) Electronic Engineering

Work History:

2005-2007 Electromech Design and Assembly Ltd.

Current Job:

2007-Present, Research Electronics Engineer


British Geologial Survey

Me and my work

I am an electronics engineer, and I support scientific research by providing specialist engineering skills, developing instruments, experimental rigs and other hardware

I’m an electronics engineer by training, although I do a large variety of work in my current role at the British Geological Survey, as well as designing and building electronic instrumentation, I build experimental setups for measuring the flow of fluids and gasses through rocks which is of interest to the radioactive waste industry as well as those involved in carbon capture and storage. I also am involved in ultrasonic testing, doing non-destructive testing (NDT) on a large variety of materials to help characterise them, such work is useful to anyone who wants to look inside something without having to physically open it up!

Currently I am working on a machine called a ‘Bond-Impact’ tester, which smashes rocks with large sledgehammers and measures various parameters about how much energy is required, this data is of interest to commercial quarrying companies who are looking to optimise their rock extraction and crushing operations. Typically for me, as well as design the electronics and write the software, I’ve had to get involved with the mechanical design of the rig itself, as well as design an experimental procedure, and interpret the results

My Typical Day

I work on a variety of projects, in the lab, in the office and in the field, no such thing as a ‘typical day’!

I usually plan my weeks out in advance, I try to assign blocks of time to certain projects as it’s usually better to concentrate on one thing rather than spread your time through lots of little things!

My work is typically carried out in one of several laboratories, Fluid processes, Ultrasonics or Instrument Development, I also use my office computer a lot, writing software, designing circuits and laying out printed circuit boards, most days I’ll either be in a lab, building stuff or running tests, or at my desk writing software or designing stuff! I do spend quite a bit of time documenting my work, written outputs are extremely important, both for sharing science with the outside world, and also making sure everyone knows how your latest piece of kit works….

I try to arrange the important stuff for the morning as I find I’m much more effective earlier in the day! after lunch I find myself a little sluggish and where possible try to take care of administrative tasks instead of having to do stuff like complex maths or tricky electronics design! Of course this isn’t always possible, but I do try to keep it this way as I find it works most effectively for me.


What I'd do with the money

I would make a youtube video showcasing some of my favourite projects

I would like to make a showcase video to demonstrate the (sometimes overlooked) role of Engineers in delivering world-class science!

Without the things we build, scientists would have no data to write papers! When things break down, engineers are there to fix it, and when scientists have ideas, engineers are there to make them into a reality (even when it’s really hard!)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Hairy, Funny, Passionate

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Black Sabbath

What's your favourite food?

Smelly Cheese

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Paintballing with my friends

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to make stuff, I had no other plans!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

not really, I was pretty well behaved…

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Developed instrumentation with the potential to save lives

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

The Usbourne science encyclopedia – one of my first non-story books

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

a 3D CAD designer

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

an end to childhood disease, an end to poverty, free education for all

Tell us a joke.

Two sausages are lying in a pan, one says to the other ‘is it hot in here?’ the other says ‘wow! a talking sausage!!’

Other stuff

Work photos:

A permeameter manifold and load frame, nicknamed ‘the ejector seat’ this thing mounts a 200kg pressure vessel which sits inside an oven


A picture of a rock sample in a large rock press, fully instrumented with electro potential and acoustic emission sensors


After a hard day’s work doing science, we look so pleased because everything worked right the first time (which almost never happens!) also it’s useful to note that science is very much a team oriented discipline!