Review of 2014 LCN News

A selection of some of the major developments at the LCN over the course of 2014.

New UCL and Imperial Centres for Doctoral Training Announced

The year began with the announcement of funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a CDT in Delivering Quantum Technologies at UCL in January. The CDT in Delivering Quantum Technologies brings together a team of almost forty academic experts with key players from commerce and government and a network of international partner institutes to train research leaders. As breakthroughs in quantum technologies begin to move out of the lab and into industrial applications, students will be uniquely placed to benefit. The Director of the new CDT, Professor Andrew Fisher (also an LCN Principal Investigator), said: “We are delighted to have the chance to use LCN facilities and  expertise to give students the best possible research training across the range of disciplines they will need in their future careers.” 

The following month a new CDT in Nuclear Energy at Imperial College was announced, based in the Department of Materials. Nearly £4M was awarded by the EPSRC to set up a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Nuclear Energy. Building UK Civil Nuclear Skills for Global Markets will provide highly-skilled and trained cohorts of PhD students with a global vision and international outlook for the UK nuclear industry, regulators, government and academia.

Finally, in April LCN researchers at both UCL and Imperial College London were awarded just over £4M from the EPSRC for a new CDT in the Advanced Characterisation of Materials (ACM). The CDT will be a joint partnership and will be led by Dr. Neil Curson from the LCN at UCL and Dr David McPhail from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London. Students at the new centre will be provided with a four-year PhD training program to gain a broad range of expertise in Advanced Characterisation of Materials across many length and energy scales as well as with in-depth expertise in specialist areas of characterisation and share a unique research training experience.

Awards and Prizes for LCN PIs and Students

Professor Mike Finnis was awarded a Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany in April. Humboldt Awards are granted in recognition of the lifetime achievements of an internationally recognised scientist from another country, whose work has made a lasting impact on their own field and beyond, and from whom more top-class scientific achievements can be expected.

In the same month LCN Honorary Professor Professor Stuart Parkin was awarded the 2014 Millennium Technology Prize, the prominent award for technological innovation, by Technology Academy Finland (TAF). Prof. Parkin receives the Prize in recognition of his discoveries, which have enabled a thousand-fold increase in the storage capacity of magnetic disk drives. As winner he follows in the footsteps of past winners such as World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee and ethical stem cell pioneer Dr. Shinya Yamanaka.

Two LCN researchers were awarded Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Awards in May. Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), these awards aim to provide universities with additional support to enable them to retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential. Professor Rachel McKendry received her award for her work on mobile technologies for global health and infectious diseases. Professor Bramwell receives his award for his work on spin ice and magnetricity.

July: Professor Gerhard Materlik of the LCN was the recipient of the Glazebrook Medal from the Institute of Physics. The award, for outstanding leadership in a physics context, is in recognition of his establishment of a world-leading laboratory at Diamond Light Source, his innovations in X-ray diffraction physics and for playing a major advisory role in many international laboratories.

Professor Ivan Parkin was awarded the Royal Society's Armourers and Brasiers’ Prize for 2014 in August. The award is for excellence in basic research in functional or structural materials where the research is clearly motivated by use of these materials, and recognises use-inspired research on structural or functional materials that is for the benefit of society.

Also in August, Professor Rachel McKendry was named winner of the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture 2014. Named in honour of biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, the award is given annually to recognise outstanding research excellence and to promote women in STEM subjects. She received a medal and a grant of £30,000 to go towards implementing a project to raise the profile of women in STEM. In her lecture given at the Royal Society on receiving the award in November, Harnessing the power of mobile phones and big data for global health, Rachel presented her research to create a new generation of mobile phone connected diagnostic tests for infectious diseases.

Later in the year Professor Ian Robinson of the LCN has been awarded the 2015 Gregori Aminoff Prize in Crystallography. The prize, conferred since 1979 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – the body that awards the Nobel prizes – recognises a documented, individual contribution in the field of crystallography, including areas concerned with the dynamics of the formation and dissolution of crystal structures. In its citation, the Academy highlighted Professor Robinson’s development of diffraction techniques for the investigation of surfaces and nanomaterials. The prize will be officially awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm in March 2015 coinciding with the Academy’s annual meeting. In addition Professor Robinson has been invited by the Academy to give a prize lecture of scientists and students.

LCN students were also successful in 2014. In September Stefano Boseggia won the 2014 Diamond Light Source PhD Investigator Award for the physical sciences. The citation for the award singled out Stefano’s passion and dedication for condensed matter physics as well as his extensive experimental work at Diamond Light Source and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). Stefano’s research seeks to define a new paradigm to describe 5d transition metal oxides, an emerging theme in condensed matter physics. His work has already led to several papers for which he has played a leading role, and which have been cited extensively, proving to be of considerable value to the wider community.

The Return of LEGO2NANO

LEGO2NANO 2014 presented a new challenge for young scientists from China and the UK. The task this year was for participants – drawn from the LCN, from UCL’s Institute of Making, Tsinghua University and Peking University – to help bring the winning design from last year’s event to high school students around the world, by develop an open-source AFM. This low-cost equipment, coupled with an open science and open source approach, means that non-scientists, including high school students, can become involved in real science.

Research Funding News

In January came news of a €1.9m ERC Consolidator Grant award to LCN researcher Professor Angelos Michaelides for his work on the HeteroIce project at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. Michael Browne, Head of the European Research and Innovation Office at UCL, said: “We’re delighted by the recent awards, which will support a vast range of exciting work taking place across UCL. ERC funding enables our researchers to develop their projects and their careers at UCL and provides an opportunity for researchers to explore subjects in their full complexity.” Professor David Price, UCL Vice Provost (Research), said: “This level of sustained funding from the ERC is testament to the world-leading research taking place at UCL, and we are proud of the insight and knowledge being generated across the university. I would like to congratulate the researchers on their success, and wish them all the best in their continued research."

Later in the year LCN's academics at Imperial College won an EPSRC capital equipment proposal for Optical Fabrication and Imaging. Valued at £728,953, it is being led by LCN's Professor Stefan Maier (Physics) with LCN's Dr Iain Dunlop and LCN's Professor Neil Alford as Co-investigators.

Finally in November I-sense announced major new collaboration with Flusurvey, the UK’s biggest crowd-sourced study of influenza. The £11m EPSRC-funded collaboration led by UCL combine their innovative mobile and big data technologies with Flusurvey’s online participatory flu monitoring platform to help monitor the spread of flu in the UK more accurately and earlier than ever before. i-sense researchers at UCL are currently developing an app, which will allow users to read out the results of their tests instantly and send them directly to Flusurvey from their mobile phones.

Arrivals and Departures

Director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) at UCL, Professor Gabriel Aeppli FRS, stepped down from his position on 21 March after almost twelve years at the helm to taken on a new role as head of the Department of Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). He has been succeeded by Professor Des McMorrow, who assumed his responsibilities as acting Director from the 24th March. The following month Dr Frank Kruger was appointed as a Lecturer at the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL, currently on secondment at the ISIS facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. His research interests include strongly correlated electron systems, quantum magnetisms, disordered systems, and quantum criticality.