Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

My PhD experience – Hashini Thirimanne, Electronic Engineering

"The idea of starting from nanostructures and building something unique and useful for society has challenged and inspired me."

The science behind nanotechnology has always fascinated me. So, when I heard about this PhD opportunity in Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) – which is world-renowned in the field of nanotechnology – I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

The aim of my PhD is to develop a low cost, ink-based X-ray detector which can be used in cancer therapy to accurately evaluate the dose delivered to patients. It could also be used for large-scale screening in security applications such as in airports, or to replace conventional radiation badges, as well as in a number of other areas. The detector is thinner than paper, flexible, and offers high sensitivity across a broad energy range.

This is a truly multidisciplinary project which draws on a number of pure sciences, enabling a unique output. The idea of starting from nanostructures and building something unique and useful for society has challenged and inspired me.

My project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust charity and has given me the opportunity to collaborate with external partners. Through my work with the Royal Surrey County Hospital I’ve been able to test the X-ray detector under the medical linear accelerator (LINAC) which is used in cancer therapy. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with the detector development group at Rutherford Appleton Labs. This has not only broadened my knowledge of my own subject, but also helped me understand how other labs function.

The novel X-ray detector I’ve developed with my project team, under the supervision of Professor Ravi Silva, delivers an outstanding performance compared to current technologies and we’ve been able to secure a patent on it, as well as winning two separate awards for the work. I’ve presented my work at a European conference attended by the expert radiation community, where it was very well received, and also published some of my initial work in a respected journal with further publications, hopefully, in the pipeline.

Having done my undergraduate degree in chemistry in Sri Lanka, the two factors which attracted me to Surrey for my PhD were the ATI’s excellent research reputation and Surrey’s high ranking in the league tables. Since coming here, I know that I made the right choice. Although at times my work is challenging, I find inspiration from working with pioneers in the field. The community within the ATI is very friendly and supportive, and I now feel that Surrey is a home away from home.

I think that in the future, I will be happiest if I continuously challenge myself through scientific research so, after my PhD studies, I plan to develop and expand the X-ray detector technology further.

Explore our programmes in Electrical and Electronic Engineering including our PhD programmes.

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