At Direct Conversion, we always have our minds on the future, on the ideas that continue to drive our innovations. This is why we believe in identifying and nurturing new talent. We support the young people in university who share our passion, enthusiasm and dedication to technological advancements. By helping grow their potential through sponsored opportunities, we ensure that we replenish and refresh our own thinking and stay at the forefront of medical innovation.
Carlo Peiffer: iWoRiD 2021, Sponsored Student
Jacqueline Wheeler, Direct Conversion: It’s great to meet you, Carlo, and I hope you are enjoying London life, despite Covid. You’re an international student at University College, but your name points north and south of Europe, so where is your hometown?
Carlo Peiffer: Well, obviously, my first name is Italian, but I’m German and I come from Bayreuth in Bavaria, a small, university town. I studied there for my BSc in physics, then moved to Regensburg for my MSc, also in physics, before coming to London.
JW: What sparked your interest in science?
CP: I think it was my parents’ influence, especially my father because he’s a professor of hydrology. When he was sent off on field trips, he took me with him, and I would ask him all sorts of questions about nature, or the world, and he would always try to answer as best he could. So, my dream was to become a scientist and go on expeditions like him. However, at school, I was interested in all aspects of science, which is why I chose physics because I feel it the broadest of the sciences.
JW: At what point did you decide to move to London?
CP: Actually, last year, I was considering a job in industry near my home, but there was nothing that appealed, so I expanded my radius and saw this opportunity at University College, London, with the Advanced X-ray Imaging Group, focused on phase contrast imaging. It was the perfect combination – imaging and a nice city like London!
JW: What drew you to imaging?
CP: As I mentioned, I originally chose physics because it encompasses many aspects of science, and during my MSc, I’d had the chance to attend a number of lectures on optics. I like images and imaging; in fact, I also enjoy photography. After my masters, I was divided between a path that would include observation of the world, or possibly something to do with climate change. Then I had the interview with my future supervisors at UCL, and I came away feeling that they thought the same way as I did, so this was the deciding factor in accepting my place.
JW: It’s a real bonus to have a strong sense of rapport with your team. How did you pick that up in the interview?
CP: The team had some challenging questions about optics and, when I thought back over the interview, I realised that the questions they asked to help me arrive at the right solution were exactly the questions I would ask in their position.
JW: What key learning have you taken from your first year at UCL?
CP: Perseverance! It’s been very difficult with Covid because I’ve only been able to get into the lab once. However, I have been reading widely and I’ve done some simulation work. For example, what I found really fascinating was the beauty of the mathematics around CT reconstructions; it’s amazing. I’ve also studied the system we are working with to understand it a lot better, and I’ve spent time on coding. So, yes, I have learnt how to stay on track.
JW: Can you see the benefits of your work to the wider world?
CP: Definitely, and this is partly why I enjoy what I do. My group is working on this new X-ray imaging technology that can be used to visualise soft tissue better than conventional X-ray imaging. Everyone in the group is exploring the real-life applications for this method. It’s been a good experience for me because, in my previous work, the subject matter was totally abstract. Now I’m studying elastography which involves using high resolution X-ray imaging technology to visualise the elastic properties of the objects imaged. This could help with cancer detection because cancer is stiffer than the surrounding, healthy tissue. Or it could help with materials testing.
JW: Now to iWoRiD. We are very pleased to sponsor you at this event. What do you hope to gain from attendance?
CP: I know some detector basics and I want to understand the technology much better. I usually take it for granted that a detector measures the intensity of a ray. But for the interpretation of what is measured, it is important to know more about the detector.
JW: Two people from the world of science who you find inspirational?
CP: I think the scientists of the Enlightenment, such as Galileo Galilei, for changing our view of the world, despite opposition from the church. And Alexander Von Humboldt, the German polymath. Von Humboldt contributed to so many sciences and he explored the world for the Europeans.
JW: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
CP: I want to be doing something that has a positive impact on people’s lives, perhaps working with a medical engineering company. However, I am also extremely interested in renewable energies, although it is not related to what I’m doing now.