August 17, 2022
Alexander Pattison grew up in Birmingham, England, where he earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees. He comes from an academic family – his father earned a Ph.D. in the history of science while his mother studied English literature and history at university.
Through his Ph.D. advisor, Pattison started at Berkeley Lab as an affiliate during the summer of 2017 and returned as a postdoctoral researcher in the National Center for Electron Microscopy based in the Molecular Foundry in August 2021. In addition, he is co-chair of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association. where he helps organize events including game nights, movies, hikes, and a career fair.
How did you first become interested in science?
I’ve always been interested in science and engineering. Until age five, I wanted to be a train driver. From the ages of five to ten, I wanted to be an astronaut. At the age of ten, I was first introduced to nanotechnology through a sort of spy novel by English author Anthony Horowitz. I thought that sounded cool.
Could you describe your work in the Molecular Foundry?
It’s a direct continuation of what I was doing in my Ph.D. Most postdocs use electron microscopy as a tool. I am more interested in improving the methods of electron microscopy. I try to find ways to automate it so we can get a lot more data out of it. That can open up the technique to people with less experience. An electron microscope is a lot like a normal microscope, but you replace light with high-energy electrons. The high-energy electrons have a wavelength that is shorter than light. You can see individual atoms and look at subatomic particles. It can be used to understand how a protein works, gain a better understanding of the human body, work toward solving diseases, and improve drugs.
Do you plan to participate in this year’s research SLAM?
This is my first year doing it. I joined for the fun of it. In school, I took part in speaking competitions. I plan to speak about my work, focusing on the machine learning aspect of it. I expect to spend ten to 20 hours preparing for it during the next couple of months.