Zahid Hussain passes his viva!

Zahid Hussain

Congratulations to PGR Zahid Hussain, who has passed his viva. His thesis was titled ‘Metal-organic Framework (MOFs) Derived Nanocomposites: Synthesis and Applications in Photocatalysis’. During his time with the CDT, Zahid published 11 papers, plus an English-to-Urdu translation of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Zahid now works as a postdoctoral researcher at Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Zahid reflects on his experience of undertaking a PhD as part of the CDT:

I believe that life is a journey from nowhere to nowhere. The pleasure of living is in the process itself, and destinations only milestones leading us to the next journey. On this path, we meet all kinds of people. While some settle down on the way, others continue to live nomadic academic lives. As a foreign student, I identify myself with migratory birds, who leave behind many relationships, friendships, cultural and sensory experiences of material and non-material things, seeking better learning and living conditions. In the quest for knowledge and professional opportunities, the continuous struggle to assimilate into a new environment provides us with great learning opportunities, which broaden our mental horizons and deepen the understanding of life indeed.

The last 4 years of my life at the University of Exeter have been full of happenings, professionally and personally. I met some wonderful people, on-campus and off-campus. Many interactions turned into enduring friendships. First of all, I got a great sense of freedom in working with my PhD supervisors Dr Yongde Xia and Prof Yanqiu Zhu, which helped me to grow as an independent researcher. Also, my supportive colleagues and friendly environment of Functional Materials Laboratory (Lab 08) made the overall PhD experience very joyful and productive.

The doctoral training program (CDT) gave me the confidence to think independently and make my own research decisions. During this time, I developed some fruitful collaborations, especially with Dr Asif Tahir (Penryn campus), Prof. Roland Fischer (TU Munich), Prof. Freek Kapteijn (TU Delft, NL) and Prof. Ovidiu Ersen (University of Strasbourg, France). The work I did in these collaborations, greatly contributed to shaping my PhD project.

Along with the PhD, the last 4 years have been the most important time of my life. I married my partner Anna-Maria and became a parent of our lovely daughter Selma as if a sailboat navigating without a compass saw the shore and anchored. Countless moments of joy, peace and contentment, as well as many sleepless nights of childcare, frustrating days, lockdown months of Covid-19 and moving back and forth from Exeter to Munich, all made this time substantial.

We wish Zahid the best of luck with his future.

Zahid has co-authored the following publications:





Selected outreach activities

Zahid has translated a book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli from English to Urdu. It has recently published by the Mashal Books, LahorePakistan.

Zahid has presented at the following conferences:

  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Xia; Presentation: Bi-MOF derived nanocomposites_applications in photocatalysis, GWPore: Conference on Porous Materials for Energy, Environment and Healthcare Applications, U.K. February 2021. (2nd best presentation award) 
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: Making heterostructures with water: Role of temperature and water steam in MOF derived TiO2/CuOx/Cu/C nanocomposites, Euromof-20193rd International Conference on MOFs and Porous Polymers, Paris, France. October 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Presentation: MOF derived photocatalysts for high efficient solar-light-driven H2 evolution. MCEC 2019, Conference on Materials for Clean Energy, NPL, London, U.K.  April 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Presentation: MOF derived bimetal oxide/carbon composites: Synthesis and photocatalytic applications, 6th International Conference on Multifunctional, Hybrid and Nanomaterials, Sitges, Spain, March 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, R. A. Fischer, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF derived TiO2/C nanocomposites for photocatalysis, ICS Winter School on Catalysis, Innovative Catalysis and Sustainability Scientific and Socio-Economic Aspects, Turin, Italy. January 2019.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF derivatives for visible-light-driven photocatalytic applications, 41st Annual Meeting of the British Zeolite Association (BZA), Cumbria, Ambleside, U.K. July 2018.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: Black porous ZnO@C nanocomposites derived from MOF-5 for highly efficient photocatalytic application, RAMS-Recent Appointees in Materials Science, University of Exeter, U.K. September 2017.
  • M. Z. Hussain, Y. Zhu, Y. Xia; Poster: MOF-5 derived ZnO/C nanocomposites for adsorption and photodegradation of organic pollutants, NIM Conference on Nanostructured Functional Materials for Sustainable Energy Provision, Munich, Germany. July 2017.

Management Board and Admin Team- last working dates for this year

Please find below a table of the last working days for this year for CMRI Management Board and the admin team, and their first working day of 2021.

We hope you enjoy the festive season!

Management Board
Staff member Last day in First day back
Alastair Hibbins Tuesday 15th December Monday 4th January
Anja Roeding Wednesday 16th December Thursday 7th January
David Wright Wednesday 23rd December Monday 4th January
Deb Lee Thursday 17th December Monday 4th January
Kelyn Luther Friday 18th December Monday 4th January

Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation to provide novel research for £2m government offshore windfarm development

Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation (CMRI) will develop novel methods for creating conductive coating for turbine blades that adsorb radar in partnership with TWI Ltd as part of the £2M offshore windfarm development boost spearheaded by the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Royal Air Force (RAF), and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). 

In a move that could significantly boost the UK’s renewable energy growth, contracts have been awarded not only to the TWI Ltd / Exeter CMRI partnership, but also to Thales, QinetiQ, Saab, and Plextek DTS to fast-track their ideas for technologies that could mitigate the impact of windfarms on the UK’s air defence radar system.

Find out more:


Prof Sir Roy Sambles receives knighthood in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Congratulations to Prof Sir Roy Sambles, who has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to scientific research and outreach.

Roy has worked in the University’s Department of Physics since 1972, becoming a senior lecturer there in 1985, a reader in 1988 and was made Professor of Experimental Physics in 1991. He led the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Metamaterials from its inception in 2014 to 2017 and now sits on the CDT Management Board.

He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society and has published over 520 scientific papers.

Roy has made significant contributions to our understanding of the melting process, spin waves in metals, resistivity of thin metal films, molecular rectification, liquid crystal optics, plasmonics and microwave and acoustic metamaterials. His early work concerned unravelling, using electron microscopy, the fundamentals of melting and evaporation of metal particles. He then went on to explore Conduction Electron Spin Resonance and provided definitive studies at low temperatures of spin waves in alkali metals. Later in his career, he also opened up research into natural photonics where his pioneering studies of the photonic structures in butterfly wings paved the way for new research in this area.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2002 and received the IOP’s Thomas Young Medal in 2003 and its Faraday Medal in 2012. He also received the George Gray Medal of the British Liquid Crystal Society in 1998.

He was a Council member of the EPSRC from 2008 to 2014 and he served on the Defence Science Advisory Committee from 2005 to 2011, sitting on the Board of the Counter-terrorism centre from 2006 to 2013. In 2018 he was made an honorary fellow of the Institute of Physics, having been its president from 2013-2017. He is currently chair of the Royal Society Research Grants Board.



Welcome to our new cohort for 2020!

We have seven new students this year, who have just finished the first week of their projects! Having attended a busy virtual induction week, they were pleased to meet the rest of the CDT face-to-face in a socially-distanced outdoor treasure hunt across the city.

Our new students are:

2020 XM² cohort Theme Project Supervisor 1 Supervisor 2
Kyle Arnold  Radiofrequency and microwave Artificial Magnetic Conductor Surfaces for Conformal Antenna Design Alastair Hibbins  Roy Sambles
George Braid  Visible, Infra-red and Terahertz Laser implosion fusion for clean energy generation David Wright Jacopo Bertolotti
David Bruce  Acoustics and Phononics New metasurfaces for acoustic control (Leaky Waves) Alastair Hibbins  Roy Sambles
Jenner Gudge-Brooke  Radiofrequency and microwave Miniaturised helical antennas for superdirectivity Alastair Hibbins  Roy Sambles
Dan Moore  Acoustics and Phononics Making the world sound better – acoustic metamaterials for manipulating sound in air and underwater Alastair Hibbins Roy Sambles
Tom Moynihan  Radiofrequency and microwave Effect of Material Conductivity and Architecture on Electromagnetic Surface Wave Propagation Alastair Hibbins  Roy Sambles
Lee Worgan  Acoustics and Phononics RF and mm-wave imaging using optical modulation Euan Hendry  Nick Stone

Tom is based in Cambridge working with TWI and David is based in Dorset, undertaking his PhD part-time whilst working at Qinetiq.

Julia De Pineda passes her viva!

Julia De Pineda Gutiérrez with her thesis

Congratulations to Julia De Pineda, who passed her viva this month. Her thesis was entitled ‘Multi-layer metasurfaces for manipulating the propagation of microwaves along surfaces and edges’. Julia published four papers during her time with the CDT.

Below, Julia describes the challenges and rewards of undertaking a PhD and the experience of having a virtual viva:

My years as a PhD student have been an emotional rollercoaster. There have been some very tough times, when I’ve been very close to quitting but there have also been really fun times. And it is the difficult times that make you grow anyway so in the end, I am very happy I decided to stay and finish this project. I also feel very lucky to have been able to work with my supervisors who have always been there to point me in the right direction, even when I thought my research was not getting anywhere. I would also like to highlight the role of the CDT regarding the soft skills training that we received along the way. I feel that sometimes as student we don’t see the importance it has but now that I am starting to look for a job I realise how many transferable skills I have acquired during these four years.

From my time as a PhD student I take some really good friends with me and many great experiences, specially from all the conferences I’ve got to attend and the amazing places I was able to discover in the meantime. However, I am very pleased that this time is over and I am very much looking forward to an exciting new adventure, whatever that is. In any case, I am sure I will take with me everything I have learnt these years, both personally and professionally. I can definitely say that I am a better version of myself than I was four years ago and to me that’s the greatest achievement.

Finally, I would like to say that submitting my thesis in the middle of a global pandemic and therefore having a virtual viva was something I was not ready for and could never have imagined when I started my PhD. But it was alright in the end and an enriching experience after all. So I would like to tell anyone in a similar situation to relax and try to get the most out of the experience. I am sure in the future we will look at it in a different way and realise that it made us learn and grow.

Julia is considering retraining as an air-traffic controller. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavours.

Below is a list of Julia’s publications and conferences she has presented at:

Julia has co-authored the following publications:





Julia has presented at the following conferences:

  • J.D de Pineda, A.P Hibbins, J.R Sambles; Presentation: “Metasurfaces for high index effective media”, 2019 IEEE Radio and Antenna Days of the Indian Ocean (RADIO), Reunion, Reunion, 23 – 26 Sept 2019
  • J.D de Pineda, A.P Hibbins, J.R Sambles; Presentation: “Exploration of Microwave Edge modes in metasurfaces with Glide symmetry”, 13th International Congress on Advanced Electromagnetic Materials for novel wave phenomena (Metamaterials), Rome, Italy, 16 – 21 Sept 2019
  • J.D de Pineda, G.P. Ward, A.P Hibbins, J.R Sambles; Presentation: “Exploration of Edge Modes formed in periodic hexagonal metasurfaces with glide symmetry”, 12th International Congress on Advanced Electromagnetic Materials for novel wave phenomena (Metamaterials), Espoo, Finland, 27 Aug – 1 Sept 2018
  • J.D de Pineda, A.P Hibbins, R.C Mitchell-Thomas, J.R Sambles; Presentation: “Multilayer Hexagonal Metasurfaces for Antenna Applications”, APS/URSI 2017, San Diego, California, 10-14 July 2017
  • J.D de Pineda, A.P Hibbins, R.C Mitchell-Thomas, J.R Sambles; Poster: “Multilayer Hexagonal Metasurfaces for Antenna Applications”, EUPROMETA school, Bordeaux, France, 4-7 April 2017

Pablo Martinez Pancorbo submits his thesis!

Congratulations to PGR Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, who submitted his thesis this month and on 18th September, successfully passed his viva.

Here’s Pablo’s words on the challenges and rewards of undertaking his PhD and his time with the CDT:

My thesis is submitted just in time!

It has been four years working on this incredible research with so many complications and unknowns. But there is light at the end of the road. Neither cancer nor the coronavirus pandemic has stopped me from getting my thesis ready.

During these beautiful years, I have grown and matured beyond what I thought I could. I had memorable experiences and met wonderful people, along with obtaining exciting results and shared them in international conferences around the world. Some of my colleagues on this journey are now my closest friends. I have worked in a broad range of disciplines and regularly collaborated with physicists, chemists, engineers and biologists. I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant in many modules which included mathematics, physics, fluids engineering and computer science, which lead me to get a teaching fellowship. Moreover, I helped to organised many events for early career scientists over the years, received serval prizes and participated in the QUEX HealthTech Hackathon. However, bad things happened too such as multiple failed experiments during my first six months, getting stuck at the airport in the Rochester (NY) during a research visit due to adverse meteorological conditions and misappropriation of the ownership of my successful grant proposal from the OSA.

I see my PhD as a time of personal growth and independent critical thinking. Thanks to the soft skills I developed in various pieces of training during this time, I managed to receive several small grants and I was awarded the JSPS postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tokyo, which (if the coronavirus travel restrictions allow) will be my next step in my research journey. I am excited and confident about implementing all I learnt in future career stages.

We congratulate Pablo on his postdoctoral fellowship and wish him the best of luck for his future.

Pablo’s achievements include:

  • March 2019, 1st Prize in #RSCChemBio (Chemical and Biology Interface) at RSC Twitter Poster Competition by Royal Society of Chemistry
  • March 2018, 2018 IOM3 Young Persons’ Lecture Competition South West of England and South of Wales Winner Award by The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)
  • 2018 IOM3 Young Persons’ Lecture Competition Exeter Winner by The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), February 2018.
  • 2018, STEM for Britain selected presenter representing Exeter at Houses of Parliament.


Pablo presented at the following conferences and workshops:

  • Poster:Organ-on-a-Chip, Current Gaps and Future Directions Conference, 2019. GSK’s Medicines Research Centre, Stevenage, United Kingdom
  • Professional Youtube video: “Nanoparticles for cancer imaging and treatment – Pablo Martinez Pancorbo”, recorded by IOM3, 20th November 2019
  • Poster: “In vitro human toxicity assessments of novel multifunctional nanoparticles for cancer theranostics”, GW4 3Rs Symposium, 2019
  • Poster: “Imaging and Treatment of Cancer Cells with smartly Designed Magnetoplasmonic Nanoparticles”,GW4 Nanomedicine Workshop, 2019
  • Poster: “Fe2O3-SiO2-Au Composite Nanoparticles for Potential Cancer Theranostics”, 14th International Conference on Materials Chemistry (MC14) 2019, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • Poster:”“Fe2O3-SiO2-Au Composite Nanoparticles for Potential Cancer Theranostics”; 6th Nano Today Conference 2019, Lisbon, Portugal
  •  Oral presentation; Speaker at Pint of Science 2019, Exeter, UK, May 2019
  •  Oral presentation: “Smartly designed composite nanoparticles for potential cancer therapy and diagnosis” as invited speaker at West of England Metals and Materials Association (WEMMA), 2018.
  • Presented talk at NanoBio Conference 2018, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 2018
  • Youtube video: “Elevator Pitch: Pablo Martínez Pancorbo”, 11th December 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Kunyapat Thummavichai, Nick Stone, Yanqiu Zhu; Poster: ‘Au-SiO2-WOx Core-Shell Nanocomposites For Biomedical Imaging Applications’, MC13 – RSC, Liverpool, UK, 25th July 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Kunyapat Thummavichai, Nick Stone, Yanqiu Zhu; Poster: ‘Au-SiO2-WOx Core-Shell Nanocomposites For Biomedical Imaging Applications’, Infrared workshop, Exeter, UK, 8th July 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Kunyapat Thummavichai, Nick Stone, Yanqiu Zhu; Poster: ‘Characterization of Nickel microarray in SEM’, MMC2017 – RSM, Manchester, UK, 7th July 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Kunyapat Thummavichai, Nick Stone, Yanqiu Zhu; Oral presentation: ‘Magnetic-Plasmonic Core-Shell Nanocomposites for Biomedical Imaging’, Living Systems Institute Imaging Symposium, Exeter, UK, 26th May 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo; Oral presentation: ‘Smart materials, the oncoming revolution’, IOM3 Young Persons Lecture Competition, Exeter, UK, 15th February 2017
  • Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Nick Stone, Yanqiu Zhu; Poster: ‘Au-SiO2-WOx Core-Shell Nanocomposites For Biomedical Imaging Applications’, Postgraduate Research Showcase 2017

XM2 Minerva Prize Colloquium Winner Announcement

We are delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s inaugural Minerva Prize Colloquium is Louisa Brotherson, a PhD student at University of Liverpool. She will be giving a talk on “Absolute acoustic sensor calibration for quantifying lab-generated earthquake sources”, delivered via Zoom on Friday 2nd October 2020. Congratulations Louisa!

Louisa Brotherson, Minerva Prize Winner 2020

The Minerva Prize is a new initiative, created and organised by a committee of CDT PGRs. Two committee members- second year PGR Connor Sait and third year PGR Emily Glover– discuss the ethos of the prize and the experience of implementing their idea into practice.


The time spent organising the first XM2 Minerva Prize has been very valuable to me. I would like to thank the XM2 management board for giving the Minerva Prize team of postgraduate students the freedom and support to organise the prize in a way that represents us.

We are delighted with our choice of prize winner Louisa Brotherson, whose application for the talk was incredibly strong. I am very excited for the chance to chat with Louisa and we are confident that her talk on the use of acoustic sensors for earthquake quantification will be a hit with the XM2 CDT!

Connor Sait

Being a part of the Minerva Prize organising committee has highlighted to me the important aspects of being part of an effective team. We have worked hard to build this event and shown great teamwork in the process. Our third year member Emily Glover in particular has worked very hard to bring things together and brought a positive and optimistic attitude to the group dynamic.

The Minerva Prize was suggested for the benefit of PhD researchers – whose opportunities to discuss their work are limited in comparison with later stage researchers – and particularly for our own postgraduate students at the Exeter metamaterials group to meet and hear about the work of a researcher at the same stage of academic development.

I would strongly encourage other XM2 postgraduates to bring their ideas for events and opportunities for the CDT to the management team. In this case, I brought the idea for a talk given by a PhD student to our programme manager Anja Roeding, who gave it serious consideration and took quick and effective action to put the foundations for the prize in place and get things off the ground. Our CDT administrator Kelyn Luther has also been a great help to us from the very beginning in organising this event. Thank you Anja and Kelyn!

I would like to thank everybody else who has given their support to the prize. I hope you all enjoy Louisa’s talk in October, and that the 2020 XM2 Minerva Prize Talk will be the first of many talks by PhD researchers, for PhD researchers here at Exeter XM2.

Emily Glover


Being a part of the Minerva Prize Organising Committee has been a great experience for me. I have enjoyed some of the more creative opportunities that it has afforded me, including building a website that we used to advertise our prize. It also taught me how much work goes in behind the scenes, and how stressful waiting for people to apply can be! Receiving our first abstract was so exciting, and I can’t wait to hear the talk from our winner.

PGR Rachel Lennon appointed as Postgraduate Research Rep for CDT Metamaterials for Student Guild

Our CDT in Metamaterials 2nd year PGR Rachel Lennon has recently been appointed to the Student Guild post of Postgraduate Research Rep for CDT Metamaterials.

Congratulations to Rachel, and well done for stepping up to take on this role.

She will act as academic representative for the CDT and her job is to represent the interests of the CDT PGR community to the Guild, University and Doctoral College: (

This is a new role that was up for election through the Guild, and will be incorporated as part of the CDT Student Advisory Group (SAG).

We have yet to establish the communication structures between Rachel and her ~60 peers within the CDT, to support the aim of developing a 2-way communication structure, where Rachel is able to represent all cohorts appropriately within the wider University landscape and can feed back any Guild information to the CDT PGRs.


We aim to host role introduction meetings with Rachel, SAG, and the cohorts soon.

Welcome SAG 2019/2020

SAG committee 2019/20, L to R: James Capers, Jess Brown, James Laurenson, Julia De Pineda Gutierrez, Katie Lewis, Emily Glover and Conor Price

As the New Year starts, there are some changes in the student advisory group for the CDT. Third years Emily Glover and Jess Brown are the new co-chairs, with Julia de Pineda Gutierrez stepping down as she approaches the end of her PhD.

About her new role, Jess says,

‘I’ve been a member of SAG since day one of my PhD, and I feel that my approachability, good communication skills and understanding of the role of SAG PGRs will allow me to co-chair SAG effectively in the coming year. Emily and I work well together and we’re looking forward to representing CDT PGRs, passing on feedback to the Management and Oversight Boards, and making sure the CDT runs smoothly!’.

Emily adds,

‘I’ve enjoyed being a part of SAG since I started my PhD, and I’m looking forward to work with Jess and co-chair this year. I hope we are able to run it as smoothly as in the past years.’

With the new cohort that started in 2019, two new members have joined SAG: James Capers and James Laurenson. James Capers says

“I joined SAG because I wanted to take an active role in making the CDT experience better for the students by constructively voicing student opinions. It’s also helpful to me personally, as it allows me to develop skills that will be valuable for my future career.”

James Laurenson adds,

“I look forward to understanding more about how the CDT is run through SAG, as well as improving my team work and management skills, which I have learnt are important in project management.”

Unfortunately we are also having to say goodbye to one member as well, as William Ferguson steps down from his SAG responsibilities to spend more time focussing on his work and ever-looming thesis deadline.