Lightbox Q&A | Dr. Stephanie Liggins

Happy International Women's Day!  At Lightbox we wanted to celebrate this important day by throwing the spotlight on one of our very own – our lead scientist, Dr. Stephanie Liggins. Dr. Liggins has blazed a trail within the lab-grown diamond industry, and is at the forefront of scientific discovery and application in the field. We're proud to have a woman leading our groundbreaking technology, and asked her to shed a little light on her career so far. 

What does an average day look like for you?

The fantastic thing about what I do is that there is no average day.  Typically, my morning will begin with a review of how the reactors are performing and a scrum session with the development team looking at what activities are coming up.  This could be anything from loading and running up a reactor, engaging with a supplier to develop a new piece of technology, designing and delivering novel methods for our synthesis or exploring new opportunities for diamond products with our customers.  There’s the administrative piece too, but generally, I can be found in the lab getting my hands dirty!

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

All through school, science and maths were my strengths – something with a definitive answer.  Playing with things (sometimes dismantling beyond repair) and generally approaching everything with a question of “Why…?”.  It excited me to understand how things worked and it seemed evident that STEM underpinned everything and had a profound impact on our daily lives.  Most of all, it provided challenge and opportunity.  For me, it was a good fit.

Have you had any important mentors or role models in your career?

Throughout my education, extra-curricular activities and home life, there have been influencers who have led me to who and where I am today, my family and GirlGuiding UK (ed- UK version of Girl Scouts) being the big ones.  They encouraged me to be inspired and to aspire to be the best I could be at whatever I chose to do.  In my career, I take those values and encourage an environment where we are mentors and role models to each other, striving to be innovative and break new bounds.  I look at the women in Element Six who have achieved great things and/or reached influential positions and hope to follow in their footsteps.  It’s great to have two such women as executive directors of our company. 

Tell us about one of the your greatest achievements?

Achieving my physics Ph.D. has to be up there, together with publishing my first patent around diamond tweeter domes.  Surviving leading a volunteer trip for 14 young girls around Japan also ranks in my top triumphs.

What led you specifically towards focusing on creating lab-grown diamonds?

From my Ph.D. I have had an interest in the engineering of materials and specifically the creation and influence of defects in diamond. There is the common saying that “Crystals are like people: It’s the defects that make them interesting” and whilst you may role your eyes, it’s true.  Just by changing a few carbon atoms for something else in just the right way, you can change the properties of color, hardness, transparency, to name just a few.  The exciting bit is balancing that with all the factors that influence the growth, so that you get a repeatable and attractive product out the other end.  Once you achieve that, it is about doing it even better!

What advice would you have for someone considering a career in STEM?

Believe in yourself, be confident in what you want, and hold true to your values.  Bust the myths that are out there around STEM and women in STEM, and be inspired by all the opportunities that a career in STEM can provide.  The skills and experiences are relevant and transferable, not only within the job but on a day-to-day basis.  It’s an exciting world out there – be a part of it and help shape it for those who follow!

What is your favorite Lightbox piece?

I love the powder blues!  Simple and delicate, they look great in the two stone pendants, the halos, and the moons.

See Dr. Stephanie Liggins explain our lab-grown diamond process in our video here