Dr Melanie Windridge

Dr Melanie Windridge has a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College London, where she worked on fusion energy at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire. Melanie was the Institute of Physics’ schools lecturer for 2010, spending the year visiting schools to talk about nuclear fusion. She has written a book based on this lecture tour – Star Chambers: The Race to Fusion Power – which gives a basic introduction to fusion energy for the general reader.

As well as being an experienced lecturer, Melanie has made several television appearances, including various programmes for the National Geographic Channel and the BBC.

She has had articles published online by The Times and the Guardian.

Melanie’s research in fusion was prompted by a strong interest in energy and the environment, engendered at school and furthered by travel – the same interest which sparked her desire to visit the Arctic. In 2005 her family set up the family-run charity Edirisa UK (of which she is a trustee), promoting education and sustainable development in Uganda. She loves mountains and adventure and has climbed many alpine peaks, including Mont Blanc, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus. In May 2018 she achieved her lifetime ambition of summiting Mount Everest.

Melanie acts as a consultant for science and technology start-up companies, and as an educational consultant at the Ogden Trust, which promotes physics education. She is an academic visitor at Imperial College London.

Books

Aurora

Melanie Windridge

The beautiful aurorae – or Northern Lights – are the stuff of legends, and have long captivated people. The Sami say that if you mock the Northern Lights they will come down and get you, and, metaphorically speaking, they do just that. They reach into something deep inside the beholder. But beneath their beauty lurks a darker side. The solar events that give them their luminosity can knock out power and communications, and as we rely increasingly on technology the prospect of a huge solar storm becomes more and more dangerous. This book grapples with both the beauty and the danger of the aurora, and explores the essential questions of its origins. Do we really even know what causes the aurora? Melanie Windridge, plasma physicist, suggests that common explanations fall short – and offers her own insight.

In a journey that takes her through Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Canada, and culminates in a spectacular solar eclipse, Melanie delves into the science of the Northern Lights, introducing the reader to the phenomena behind this most spectacular of natural events. Touching on the history, geography and mythology that comprise the aurora borealis, Aurora brings together space, place and science in magnificent style.

‘It is clear in this captivating book that her technical understanding has not dimmed her delight.’

— Nature

‘The result is a brilliant blend of auroral science, polar exploration, Sami heritage and folklore. Melanie Windridge’s book is full of wonders.’

— Simple Things magazine

‘Her enthusiasm for all things aurora is, ultimately, infectious and there will be something of interest here for anyone with even a passing curiosity in this remarkable natural phenomenon’

— Times Literary Supplement