How to become a physicist: Mark Richards' story

What’s your job?

I’m a scientist - an atmospheric physicist and a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London. In my spare time I am also a DJ (DJ Kemist).

How did you get started in this role?

Whilst working on a project to detect very small amounts of harmful chemicals in the air, I did a degree in chemistry followed by a PhD.

I now split my time between teaching physics, DJing and remixing music, and developing air pollution monitoring instruments for the company that I co-founded.

A case study from the Royal Society
Mark is a scientist and DJ

What inspires you?

I was born in Nottingham in the 1970s to parents who had emigrated from Jamaica, as part of the Windrush generation.

My mother was a great advocate for education. She used to say that education is your passport out of poverty. When I started to do well in chemistry tests at school, the ‘boffins’ who always did well were very unhappy, but this showed me I was someone who could do well and so I kept trying.


PhD in Physics at The Imperial College London, BSc (Hons) degree in Chemistry at the University of Manchester.

Before this I did A-Levels in Maths, Chemistry, and Economics.

Best thing about your job

I love knowing that the work I do is both rewarding and also has the potential to improve the quality of lives for many people across the globe.

Future plans

I plan to bring the joy of studying science to more people throughout the world, especially those who have little opportunity to do so. I also want to continue to DJ and produce music.

Top tips

  • Aptitude + Attitude = Altitude
  • Stay versatile in an ever-changing world
  • Know yourself. Be yourself. As they say 'it’s always better to be a first-rate you than a second-rate somebody else.'

What to expect if you want to become a physicist

  • Salary: From £14,000 to £70,000
  • Working hours: On average 39-41 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be a physicist?

  • Entry requirements: You'll usually need 2 to 3 A-levels, a degree in a relevant subject and in some cases a relevant postgraduate qualification such as a masters degree or PhD.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

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