Emily Glover explores career opportunities at IOP Publishing

Third year PGR Emily Glover reports on her visit to IOPP last week (19th February):

I visited the IOP Publishing headquarters in Bristol, to learn more about a career in scientific publishing. This was first introduced to me as a career opportunity in my first year, through a ‘Beyond a PhD’ talk presented by an editor from the Nature Communications journal. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted to do after my PhD but as I progress, the idea of pursuing a career in scientific publishing and journalism remains. While I enjoy doing my research as part of the PhD, I also enjoy learning about other research that is done, both in my research field and Physics in general. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to learn more about scientific publishing, I leapt at the chance.

During the day, I met with different employees who work in various different positions. Going into the day, I was aware of editors who received the manuscripts from researchers and moved them through the approval chain, however I learnt that there were many more jobs in publishing. These included the production of the papers, working with authors to make sure the manuscripts are publishable; managing the journals themselves, making sure that the journals were suitable for the readers and any emerging branches of physics could be published in them; and working with respected professors to commission books about high impact topics.

I was incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity, and learn more about what I hope will be my future career. It has shown me that there are more opportunities outside of research that I will be able to pursue, and given me ideas for where I want my future to take me.

Industry visit to IBM January 2020

On the 16th January, a group of students from the CDT went to visit IBM Hursely to learn about the company and career opportunities that are available to PhD students. Despite an early start from campus, it was a productive day for all of the students, learning about the history of IBM and some of the research that is carried out at the Hursely site, as well as what it would be like to work for IBM.

The day started with a series of talks from some of the researchers at IBM. While a lot of the research that is carried out at the Hursely site is computer science orientated, it showed that there was still a breadth in the research that is carried out. It was also emphasised how much the researchers had the opportunity to explore small projects almost like hobbies alongside the large, more professional research.

This was followed by a visit to their demonstration lab, where some students got to try out some interactive demos. These included a VR trip to the International Space Station (which started as a hobby project from one researcher and has since continued to grow) and a safety helmet that could rate the intensity of damage and predict the amount of danger that the wearer was in from serious head injuries. This was, of course, seriously tested with a small cricket bat while the helmet was placed on a testing dummy.

Second year PGR David Tatnell (right) discusses his research

The Exeter students were then able to present their own research to the researchers at IBM, where there were good conversations and interest from the researchers into the students’ research. During this time, there was also the opportunity to talk to the researchers about their work, and build networks for the future.

The day finished with a short careers talk, explaining the application process, before the long journey back to Exeter began. While it was a long day for everyone, it was useful to learn about a potential employer and get a feel for the working atmosphere at IBM.

Second year Katie Lewis says,

“The whole day was very good, and it was nice learning about IBM and careers in the company. It seemed like a supportive place to work, which is something I would look for. There was good interaction between IBM researchers and CDT students at the poster session as well, which was appreciated.”

Third year Peter Inzani says,

“I enjoyed visiting IBM, it has shown me a promising career opportunity where I will be able to use some of the skills that I am learning during my PhD and through research into an industry setting. The atmosphere of the company of a whole was very nice, and I was able to have a great chat with some researchers and start to make contacts for the future.”

David Newman spends Research Visit at Diamond Light Source

Second year PGR David Newman reports on his latest visit to Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Between the 9th and 17th of December, I was at the Diamond Light Source in Didcot, near Oxford. The first few days were devoted to a project meeting for the “Picosecond Dynamics of Magnetic Exchange Springs” project where I presented my work on the inverse spin Hall effect to our collaborators from the University of Southampton, University of Oxford and Diamond Light Source. This allowed us to take stock of our current position and plot the best course forward for the respective project partners.

After this I was working on a beamtime at the Diamond Light Source using the X-ray ferromagnetic resonance (XFMR) spectroscopy capabilities of the I10 station. Our aim being to investigate if a Mn spylayer could be used to study an exchange spring locally. This provided a great opportunity to gather vast amounts of data, consolidate understanding with collaborators and gain further experience in running XFMR experiments per my PhD title.

Learning from industry: David Osuna Ruiz reports on his placement with Shouhang European S.L

Third year PGR David Osuna Ruiz was recently awarded funding from EPSRC for industry placements in national or international companies whose activities are aligned with the UK National Industry Strategy. David’s field was Renewable Energies.

His two-week placement, made possible by the EPSRC’s funding award, was with Shouhang European S.L., which develops energy resources saving technologies such as air cooling systems, water treatment technologies, waste heat utilization, heating supply and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Stations. In China, the company has been awarded for many pioneering achievements on these topics and was the first company in that country to produce the largest amount of kilowatts from its projects based on those technologies.

David was assigned the task of developing an interactive GUI (Graphic User Interface) through Matlab to let the user perform the following actions:

• After introducing the technical parameters and physical dimensions of the station, show a simulated sunspot on the target of the solar tower (where rays are collected) with a frontal view (a piece of code with the mathematics of the ray optics was provided)
• Import a real image of that sunspot provided by an IR camera
• Draw an isometric schematic of the system (tower+plane of incidence+sun rays) to give an idea to the user of how the orientation changes as parameters are modified in real time
• A difference image to spot differences more easily. The purpose of this program is to infer from simulations a parameter called the ‘slope sigma error’, an error related to the aiming of the heliostats (mirrors) to the solar tower. The real sunspot must have the same ‘sigma error’ that the one in simulations when both sunspots look similar, which helps to modify the aiming settings of the heliostat in real time, compensate the error and get a more efficient aiming to the collection target. This can be checked by taking orthogonal cuts to both spots, simulated and real and comparing the width of the Gaussian distributions of normalized power intensity.

David talks about his experience:

The Matlab code I implemented was mainly based on ‘call-back’ functions linked to buttons and toggles that can be pressed on the main window. The imported data also needed image processing and geometrical transformations (trigonometry, perspectives and projections on cylindrical planes… etc.) to make it suitable for comparison with simulations. In summary, I learned how to implement interactive GUI’s in Matlab and more specifically for image processing. This is very helpful for developing a user-friendly and clean GUI for any other scientific, control or data processing purpose in my research project. It will also make so much easier for new students/users to use for the first time any Matlab program that incorporates such an interface. Objectives were accomplished within the two weeks and the Matlab code was given to the company for further improvement and future use.
I also attended a few meetings where the team discussed about the state-of-the-art of some of their projects and about a visit to an international congress, which was very insightful and I could hear about the latest news on solar technology and the company’s plans moving forward.

Gooch and Housego Industry Visit

In May this year, our first year PGRs (Cohort 5) visited Gooch and Housego, a global leader in photonics technology in Torquay, for an insight into their company and the wider industry.

G&H are experts across a uniquely broad range of photonic technologies – crystal growth, optical materials processing, acousto-optics and electro-optics, fiber optics, DFB laser modules, precision optics (thin-film coating, birefringent optics, non-linear, planar and aspheric), RF driver electronics in addition to light measurement and calibration solutions.

Through tours and presentations, the PGRs experienced what it was like to work in this modern industry. Building on the ethos of our Beyond a PhD talks, some students spoke further with the staff to see which careers are open to them post-PhD.

We would like to thank G&H for hosting our PGRs to offer such insights in their business.

Mian Zahid Hussain at ICS Winter School 2019

Recently, third year CDT postgraduate researcher Mian Zahid Hussain secured a grant from Italian Chemical Society (ICS) to participate in a winter school on Catalysis which took place at Bardonecchia, Italy from 7-11 January 2019. The focus of the winter school was to provide a detailed picture of the current scientific challenges to the catalysis for energy and environmental issues.

Current chemical industry relies mostly on fossil fuels, primarily to fulfill global energy-related requirements. In the present-day efforts to develop more environmentally friendly, cleaner and renewable energy sources, it depends upon how and if the chemical industry could shift from fossil-fuel to renewable energy driven production. The young generation of researchers working in this area of catalysis needs to be trained to understand the underlying problems and to establish the connection between the shifting techno-economic landscape of energy-related production systems and catalysis development challenges. This school proposed to set the basis for such an analysis.

This winter school was informative and provided a broader overview of the field of catalysis, covering the technical, industrial and economic aspects. Zahid held a poster presentation which was appreciated by the organizing committee and fellow researchers. It also provided an excellent opportunity for networking and meeting interesting people working on similar scientific topics.

More photos from the school below:







XM2 visit at IBM in Daresbury

On Friday, 7th December 2018, 16 of our third and fourth year postgraduate researchers visited The Hartree Centre (IBM) in Daresbury.  The Hartree Centre is transforming UK industry through high performance computing, big data and cognitive technologies. We got to know representatives from Daresbury’s IBM research team, who introduced us to their work on data science and how this supports real-world problems in machine learning, chemistry, life sciences, engineering and manufacturing.

IBM’s super computer facilities are quite impressive, and the virtual reality simulator gave us incredible insights in how IBM supports for example the health care sector: Based on the data they received IBM researchers created a 3D version of a 5 year old’s heart to give a surgery team a better understanding of where the hole in it is, hence being able to plan and conduct the operation effectively and as quickly as possible to minimize the impact on the patient. Thoroughly impressive.

We would like to thank Demelza Farrer (IBM UK, University Programs Manager) and Dr Martyn Spink, Programme Director of the IBM UK Research Team (Daresbury Labs), and his team for committing their time and energy to organising the insightful visit. It was very much appreciated and received very positive feedback from our PhD students:

“The visit was very informative. I learned a lot about research in data science and computational modelling. I was very surprised that IBM worked on problems such as healthcare, genomics, and fluid flow!” (Natalie Whitehead, 4th year PGR)

“It was thoroughly interesting seeing interdisciplinary research so prominent in a company. I didn’t realise jobs like these existed!” (Ned Taylor, 3rd year PGR)

“I enjoyed every aspect of this visit. It encouraged me to pursue the path I’m on with renewed hope for the future.” (Emanuele Gemo, 3rd year PGR)

The XM2 PGRs and Dr Martyn Spink (right) in IBM’s creativity encouraging common room in Daresbury.


Excursion to California: Beam-time at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley.

David Newman

XM² PGR David Newman (1st year, supervised by Prof Rob Hicken and Dr Mustafa Aziz ) recently went to the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, California where he was using X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD), X-ray ferromagnetic resonance (XFMR) and other magnetic spectroscopic techniques to characterise spin currents in ferromagnetic/anti-ferromagnetic/ferromagnetic trilayer structures and probe the dynamics of exchange spring meta-materials. He kicked off his PhD project by learning more about the software used, developing his magnetic spectroscopy skills and generally gaining experience for future beam-times in Berkeley.

Zahid Hussain’s research visit at the TU Munich: MOF-Derived Bimetal Oxide/Carbon (M-MO/C) Nanocomposites for Solar Light Driven Applications

Zahid Hussain started his PhD in the EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials in 2016 and was invited to join the Catalysis Research Center at the Technical University, Munich, from January to December 2018.

This fantastic opportunity aims to derive bi-metal oxide nanocomposites from metal organic frameworks (MOFs) for high efficient solar light driven applications. Zahid got in touch recently to provide us with an update on his experiences which we’d like to share with you:

“During my stay at Technical University in Munich, I divided my project in three phases. Firstly, I synthesized titanium based metal organic framework (MOF) NH2-MIL-125 and studied the structural and textual properties. For this purpose, basic characterization techniques were employed. Once I confirmed that the MOF structure is stable under ambient conditions, I used it for photocatalytic dye degradation of methylene blue (MB) and H2 evolution reaction (HER). In the second part, I derived TiO2/C composites from the above mentioned MOF upon calcination at high temperature. I used different temperatures and gaseous atmospheres to optimize the crystal structure, morphologies and energy band gaps. Once the MOF derived TiO2/C composites were synthesized, I used them for visible light photocatalysis and found that the derived composites show much higher photocatalytic dye degradation and H2 production efficiency as compared to the precursor MOF. Moreover, the MOF structure was not stable upon chemical interaction with MB dye molecules.

In the second phase of the project, I studied the synergistic effect of bi-metallic MOF and derived bimetal oxide/Carbon composites. For this work, I selected a transition metal such as Copper (Cu) and introduced it during the synthesis of Ti-MOF to achieve bimetallic MOFs with different molar ratios. For comparison, I followed two synthesis routes: 1) direct mixing of two metal ions during synthesis and 2) synthesis with loading of second metal ion after the synthesis of Ti-MOF. The synthesized bimetallic MOFs were carbonized to produce TiO2/CuO/C nanocomposites via high temperature pyrolysis under different conditions. The obtained nanocomposites were fully characterized to understand the underlying synthesis mechanisms and the correlation of the MOF precursors and the derived bimetal oxide composites. This is an ongoing project and the final research findings will be published in a peer reviewed journal very soon.

The third phase of my research visit at the TU Munich is to use these MOF derived nanocomposites for photovoltaic applications. This work is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

During my stay, I also participate in public outreach activities. We organized a show lecture: “The Crazy Chemist’s Guide to the Universe” for general audience and undergraduate students to demonstrate how our universe is made of chemical elements which we use and experience in our daily life. We are planning to organize another activity to show that being a “concerned scientist’’, how scientists can play a constructive role in the betterment of society.

I am thankful to the CDT in Metamaterials (XM2) and my supervisors to allow me to develop these very useful research collaborations with the TU Munich. It provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop a range of new experimental research skills.”

PGR cohort visit at Gooch & Housego (Photonics Technology, Torbay)

In June, our second year PhD students (2016 cohort) went for ca company visit to Gooch and Housego, a global leader in photonics technology in Torquay.

G&H are experts across a uniquely broad range of photonic technologies – crystal growth, optical materials processing, acousto-optics and electro-optics, fiber optics, DFB laser modules, precision optics (thin-film coating, birefringent optics, non-linear, planar and aspheric), RF driver electronics in addition to light measurement and calibration solutions.

The PGRs learned about the different components made by the company, and had the opportunity to explore the factory floor where they observed a variety of activities, including the construction of fused fibres and components headed for space.

We would like to thank G&H for hosting our PGRs to offer such insights in their business.