Big BANG! Theory - a place where curry and physics meet

Shelly, the founder of BANG! Curry is all about bringing the big bold flavours of Bangladeshi cooking to kitchens across the land. But Shelly’s path to BANG! has been anything but predictable. In fact, in some circles she’s better known as Dr Nuruzzaman and in a former life was the only woman in teams running global physics experiments. Their aim? Cracking the holy grail of fusion, obviously. 


So how did she get from there to here, and how do the two overlap? Read on to find out about the brain behind your best ever biriyani...


You're a doctor, what are you a doctor in?

Physics. I studied and worked at Imperial as part of the Plasma Physics Department. My group worked on fusion science. 


What is fusion?

In a nutshell, it’s what powers stars. If we can work out how to do it and harness it, it could provide an earth-changing alternative to conventional energy sources. But we haven’t done that. Yet.


How did you get into plasma physics?

I like solving problems. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the energy crisis that comes from our reliance on fossil fuels. Plus I always thought science was cool; I mean everything stems from science. And for me physics is the ultimate branch of science.


Why?

Physics is all about taking something complex and making it simple. I just love that. 


Sounds familiar… isn’t that what BANG! is all about?

I guess so. Cooking a really good meal is kind of like conducting an experiment, but BANG! helps you to get the result you’re after every time. Science is definitely less predictable. And less delicious.


So what was life like as an experimental physicist?

I was a tiny part in a huge scientific community working on this but it was intense and exciting. As part of achieving my doctorate I was able to work in huge international laser facilities - like the one in Los Alamos - with teams of incredibly bright and motivated people from all over the world. At the time though, I was the only woman working on these projects. I love the way it’s more ‘normal’ to find women in science now.


So how did you make the leap from science to spice?

My work in physics was incredibly stimulating - and at times pretty thrilling - but I think I always knew that science wasn’t the be all and end all of my career. The internet revolution coincided with me looking for a new challenge, it was perfect timing really. So I had a stint in the city - for a decade or so! - developing innovative trading technologies. 


There certainly are a lot of strings to you bow…

I’ve had quite a varied career so far but everything I’ve done has involved working with people and solving problems. Like I said, that’s kind of what makes me tick. It was while I was working in the city that I met Mark [Shelly’s husband] and started a family, so here I am. BANG! was the perfect challenge for us to take on together, and working with Mark certainly makes life interesting. 


So how does your work on fusion translate into what you do now?

Physics, trading, cooking - they’re all about taking something complicated and simplifying it to make it work for you. I guess my science background and logical approach to things is reflected in the BANG! range. We take complex flavours and make them simple to use. It’s not fusion but it still has its rewards..!


And, one last thing, what did you eat while you were busy trying to master fusion?

Fish finger sandwiches mostly! With hot chilli sauce and thick sliced wholemeal bread. Has to be wholemeal.