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Holly Hedgeland
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PhysicistThe Open University and Robinson College, Cambridge
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Post Doctoral Research Associate

Researching how small molcules move on surfaces at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, to help us understand processes relevant to catalysis and self-assembly.

Secondary Teacher

Two years teaching maths and physics to students from Year 7 to Year 13.

Postdoc / Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Scanning tunnelling microscopy at the London Centre for Nanotechnology looking at the electronic structure of surface adsorbed molecules.

The Open University and Robinson College, Cambridge

My current roles involve both teaching and research: I lead a final-year undergraduate course on electromagnetism and am working on research projects in both surface physics and physics education research.

Originally from just south of London, I read Natural Sciences at Cambridge as an undergraduate. I stayed on for a PhD based in the Surface Physics group at the Cavendish Laboratory, applying a novel quantum-based helium spin echo instrument to examine how molecules move on surfaces. After finishing my PhD, I held a postdoc and fellowship at Robinson College which allowed me to continue my work, measuring the surface friction of benzene molecules as they diffuse around a graphite surface with the same kind of motion as the pollen grains we watch under a microscope at school. Following a couple of years out as a secondary teacher of maths and physics, I moved to UCL. There, I used the atomically-sharp metal tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope to measure the electronic, rather than dynamical, properties of molecules on surfaces. Now substantively based at the Open University, I continue my research on surfaces alongside my interest in physics education.


Don't be afraid to take time to explore new paths: a year tends to seem longer when you look forwards than back.

My Education
PhD, Surface Physics
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK
MSci, Experimental and Theoretical Physics
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK
Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Further and additional maths
More about me

My job is a mixture of teaching and research and also involves quite a lot of academic management/admin, so being able to keep track of a large number of quite varied projects is pretty important.

Like most researchers, I spent several years as a post doctoral researcher after my PhD but my time as a secondary teacher has also given me a really valuable insight into students making the transition to tertiary education.

When I left school, I was most interested in becoming a lawyer but that changed in my first term at university.

I've tried paths that turned out not to be options I wanted to continue long-term but have usually learned a lot from the experience that I probably couldn't have learned any other way.

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