Chris Mansell

Favourite Thing: Hearing the latest news (e.g. cool ideas, big results, etc.); problem-solving with others; telling people about science.



Magdalen College School (2000-2005); St. Peter’s College, Oxford Univeristy (2005-2009); The Open University (2009-present).


5 A-stars, 4 As and a B at GCSE; As in Physics, Maths and Biology at A-level; a 2:1 Master’s degree in physics known as an MPhys.

Work History:

I did some experimental work at the Diamond Light Source (Summer, 2007); I ran some computer simulations of electrons emerging from a plasma wakefield accelerator at Oxford University (Summer, 2008).

Current Job:

PhD student.


The Open University.

Me and my work

I am trying to build a really fast computer known as a “quantum computer” out of laser beams and a few extremely cold atoms.

My Typical Day

In a typical day, I: scan read the latest issues of scientific journals; work on a computer programme called “Mathematica” to see if I can figure out how the atoms in my lab might behave in different scenarios; meet, arrange to meet or check when I next have a meeting with my supervisor to discuss how our work is progressing.

What I'd do with the money

I would give the money to one of the science classrooms listed on is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on the site.

When a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are shipped to the school. We’ll get photos of the project taking place, a letter from the teacher, and insight into how every dollar was spent. Due to the amount we are giving, we will also receive hand-written thank-yous from the students.

I’ve been looking at some of the projects. One physics classroom in a poor neighbourhood needs some money for a whiteboard, so I think I would give to that project:

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Intellectual, sensitive, agreeable.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Beatles.

What's your favourite food?

Roast lamb.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Winning an important football match is an awesome feeling.

What did you want to be after you left school?

An inventor.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?


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

I had an idea that my supervisor and I then used to apply for some research money and we won almost a quarter of a million pounds to experimentally implement the idea.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Popular science books.

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

Patent Attorney.

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

My wishes would be to successfully complete my PhD, do some good in the world (e.g. win the lottery and give lots to charity) and have a happy, healthy family.

Tell us a joke.

I used to file my nails but then I thought, “what’s the point in keeping them?!”

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here are some photos of my lab: myimage1

myimage2 myimage3

I have used the phrase “exponentially faster” a few times in my answers, so here is a graph to show what this means. The graph compares two algorithms for factorising large numbers. One is a quantum algorithm and one is the best ordinary (or “classical”) algorithm we have. (I have adapted this graph from Stolze and Suter’s book “Quatum Computing: A short course from theory to experiment.”)