PhD recipient profiles

Dr Brian Nathaniel Jones

Research Fellow, Surrey Ion Beam Centre

An early fascination with the lifesaving technology used in medical imaging inspired me to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Physics from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. I then held a position in the photonics industry working as a researcher in the R&D department at JDS Uniphase Corporation in Ottawa, Canada. While developing sophisticated fibre optic components I had my first exposure to the way in which industry develops a scientific idea into a profitable product. This period helped me to develop a healthy thirst for knowledge and I became determined to always be at the forefront of the discoveries being made in my research field.

I returned for a Master’s degree in Applied Physics at the University of Guelph working now in the field of Ion Beam Analysis (IBA) where I used a particle accelerator to study the atomic structure using a technique called particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE). Upon successfully completing this degree, which included teaching duties, I was hired by the University of Guelph’s Physics Department as a Research Associate. I then had the great pleasure of becoming a member of the research team responsible for designing and developing a device called the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS). The APXS is part of the payload of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Rover and is currently being used to perform PIXE and X-ray fluorescence measurements on Mars. It is satisfying to see that even today the APXS that I had a hand in developing continues to make important discoveries that I sometimes read about on the BBC.

While presenting results at a conference in Mexico back in 2007, I met researchers from the Surrey Ion Beam Centre (SIBC) and discussed the possibility that I continue my research in England. I began working at the SIBC as a Research Fellow in 2008 and at that time I was also given the opportunity to pursue a part-time PhD (completed at the end of 2012). My research, which still involves developing traditional IBA techniques, has expanded to include the development of a novel technique being referred to by the mass spectrometry community as MeV-SIMS. MeV-SIMS uses very energetic heavy primary ion beams to produce molecular images of a sample’s surface. The importance of MeV-SIMS comes from the fact that we can focus the beam to submicron resolution and perform the measurements in fully ambient pressure such that there is no longer a need to analyse the sample in a vacuum chamber. No other mass spectrometry technique available can offer the analysis options provided by MeV-SIMS!

An MeV heavy ion beam passes through a thin Si3N4 window into a flow of helium gas, The beam strikes the surface of the sample being analysed and causes the ejection of the molecules on the surface. These are carried together with the helium gas into an ambient pressure mass spectrometer where they can be identified. The beam can be focused to approximately a micron in size and raster scanned across the surface to build up a molecular concentration map of the molecular species on the surface. At the same time X-rays are emitted from the elements on the surface and these can be picked by sensitive X-ray detectors to determine the elemental make-up of the surface.

As part of my continuing career development in Surrey, I have also been acting as the Networking Facilitator of an Integrated Infrastructure Initiative (I3) project funded by the European Commission. This high profile, well-funded project, called SPIRIT, has the main goal of granting public and industrial researchers from Europe free access to leading European ion beam facilities. SPIRIT has been a great experience and has given me invaluable exposure to the research being conducted in Europe. Here in the UK, I am a member of the Institute of Physics where I have been acting as the Honorary Secretary of the Ion and Plasma Surface Interactions Group Committee for three years. These opportunities only became available to me when I came to the University of Surrey.

Within the past few months, thanks in great part to my experiences in Surrey, I have been awarded a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Experimental Physics from Italy’s prestigious Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (National Institute for Nuclear Physics or INFN). I am excited by this prospect as it will allow me to continue my research and will also give me the option of living and working in Florence, Italy.

Dr Imalka Jayawardena

I obtained a first class BSc (Hons) in Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka majoring in Materials Engineering in 2008. On completing my undergraduate studies, I was given the opportunity to pursue a PhD in the Nanoelectronics Centre at the ATI. On completing my PhD in March 2012, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the EPSRC Postdoctoral Prize Fellowship which has allowed me to pursue my research interests in organic electronics working with Professor Ravi Silva.

As of present, I am actively involved in integrating inorganic nanostructures to “plastic” solar cells based on high performing organic materials with the aim of achieving performances that will allow this cheap, environmentally friendly technology to be brought to the masses.

I am also looking forward to increasing my involvement in outreach activities that will help raise public awareness on the importance of the research carried out in Universities.

Dr Juerong (Nicole) Li

I completed my PhD within three years with a thesis entitled “Spin Dependent Electron Transport in Nanoscale InSb Quantum Well Devices”. I have been an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow since May 2012. This Fellowship was won after a competitive review of the proposal I wrote based on a scientific case and based on my track record in research.

I am a focused and self-driven researcher as well as an expert in the combination of magneto-optical spectroscopy with electrical spin-sensing in InSb. This material system is rather specialized, and in my PhD Prize fellowship project I am now broadening my expertise to include organic materials, since low-cost devices made from these materials with self-organization have been proved extremely powerful in other areas of (molecular) electronics. The materials are being produced by Surrey’s Global Partnership Network collaborators at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Dr Lara Barazzuol

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2006 and a Master’s degree in Bioengineering in 2008 awarded with cum laude, both at the University of Padua in Italy.

I completed my PhD in the Ion Beam Centre under the supervision of Professor Karen Kirkby and within the framework of the Particle Training Network for European Radiotherapy (PARTNER), a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher training network. My research explored novel treatment options for patients with high-grade brain tumours, with a particular focus on using novel targeted agents combined with conventional radiotherapy and particle therapy.

Since my PhD graduation, I have been carrying on my research within the Ion Beam Centre. I am currently looking into getting a more independent research post, which will provide me with an opportunity to take an independent role as a research scientist.

Dr Radu Sporea

On completing my PhD in 2010 at the University of Surrey, I received a PhD+ postdoctoral fellowship funded by EPSRC to continue at the ATI as a Research Fellow, working with Professor Ravi Silva and Professor John Shannon.

I am very proud of being awarded PhD+ funding because it enables me to continue the interesting research I started during my PhD. The electronic device I am currently investigating is called the Source-Gated Transistor (SGT). It was invented at Surrey and it addresses the limitations of standard transistors when used in current electronic system, but also in completely new applications, such as flexible display screens and flat-panel, high-efficiency lighting.

During my PhD I concentrated on investigating the performance characteristics of the SGT. This year I am taking this research one step further by creating design rules and circuit demonstrators. To industry, the adoption of SGT technology is much like learning a new language, so my priority is to establish ground rules for analog circuit design and fabrication using the SGT. The structures we are currently testing are made by Philips Research and, based on our results, we expect to license the technology to industrial third parties. The result will be the real coming of age of plastic electronics, and will enable the UK to create a unique market lead in the field.

This year I am also increasing my involvement with public engagement and outreach activities. I aim to communicate the latest developments in electronics and raise public awareness of the University’s contribution to science. Later this year I will be speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival about the internals of modern ultraportable computers and about the science of photography. I am also acting as scientific adviser for a BBC documentary which is planned to air in autumn.

Time, and weather, permitting, I like to spend my free time taking photos. For the past three years I have been the President of the University’s Photography Society, a very rewarding and enjoyable position. In 2011 we have had unprecedented participation of both students and staff and we are working on our second official exhibition of the year, on special request form the University, for the opening of the new Ivy Arts Centre.

Dr Renzo Loiacono

I obtained first class BEng and MEng degrees in electronic engineering with a major in optoelectronics from Politecnico di Bari (Italy) in 2004 and 2006, respectively. My interest in silicon photonics brought me to the Surrey Photonics Group, as it is one of the pioneering groups in the field. During my PhD project which was supervised by Prof. Reed, Prof. Gwilliam and Dr Mashanovich, I was working on the design and fabrication of innovative integrated photonic devices, and I have developed locally erasable ion implanted Bragg gratings in silicon waveguides. 

My project was jointly funded by Intel Corporation and IeMRC, and resulted in one international patent and publications in journals and conference proceedings. Since graduation, I have been working as a Research Fellow in the Photonics Group on the development of a novel single photon detector. I have been recently offered a position of a Process Engineer at the Fab24 Intel facility in Leixlip (Ireland), which is one of Intel’s most technologically advanced, high-volume manufacturing plants in the world. I will be working on advanced silicon processing for the fabrication of the next generation of silicon microprocessors. I am looking forward to gaining experience at Intel and to explore possibilities for joint projects with my colleagues at Surrey.

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