11 Mar 2022

Meet Alexandria Sterling


Have you ever seen a firefly glow and wonder- how does that happen? Well, it is a phenomenon known as bioluminescence and Alexandria is completing her Chemistry PhD in this subject. She researches all about how bioluminescence happens and how we can control it using lasers.

bioluminescence in an insect gif | Stemettes Zine

Growing up, Alexandria always was often confused and interested in how the world worked and this has translated into her work now because Chemistry helps her to understand what makes up us as humans and the world around us. She loves chemistry so much that she was the youngest person to sit on the Royal Society of Chemistry board at age 19.

How many creatures can you think of that glow?

Fish, jellyfish, fireflies, and sea stars are amongst the list of animals that glow and they can do this by releasing a chemical that causes a chemical reaction releasing light energy. Scientists have even made cats glow.

Bioluminescence might look fancy, but why do animals do it?

Depending on the species, animals can glow to communicate with others, to give off excess energy or to provide light if they live in an area that has no natural light (think of the Angler fish from Finding Nemo!)

angler fish luminescence gif | Stemettes Zine

Most of Alexandria’s time is spent in the laboratory researching the answers to the chemistry of bioluminescence and she hopes to continue to focus on this in the future- as there is still a lot of questions to be answered.

Read more about Alex and her research >>

A massive thank you to Alexandria for hosting this session during the Easter Explore programme in 2021. Read more session summaries from Easter Explore 2021 >>

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