World-class Research at the University of Nottingham
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Our fellows

We nurture researchers and support staff across the University at every stage of their career, whether individually or in specialist teams.As a research-led institution, we recognise the value and contribution of early career researchers in delivering our ambitious, high-quality research strategy. Their insights are invaluable, and we will enhance this vital aspect of our research network by recruiting 100 Nottingham and Anne McLaren Research Fellows by the end of 2020.

Meet some of our fellows

Dr Geertje van de Heijden
Anne McLaren Research Fellow
School of Geography

Dr Geertje van der Heijden, an Anne McLaren Research Fellow, is an ecologist based in the School of Geography.

“I’m interested in the influence of climate change on tropical forests and how they in turn influence climate change. My focus is on lianas, woody climbing plants. They use the trees to support their biomass to reach the canopy, but are detrimental to the trees they infest.

We’re asking how do lianas affect the carbon balance and carbon cycle of these forests. As growing trees take up carbon from the atmosphere and release carbon back when they die, tropical forests are important for the global carbon balance and cycle. Lianas may affect this as trees that are infested with lianas grow less and die sooner. Lianas are increasing, at least in the Neotropics, and we’re finding out if this something to worry about in terms of the global carbon balance and climate change.

I’m collaborating on a large-scale experimental removal study in Panama where we have removed all lianas from a certain area to compare with forest where lianas are still present to test this. But I am also using other more observational approaches to answer these questions. Further funding would allow us to extend the liana removal project to Malaysia and Costa Rica.

From being very little in the Netherlands, I always wanted to go to the tropical rainforest. I studied biology and wanted to do a project in the tropics – that was lianas in Guyana and I got hooked. The first time I walked into the rainforest and thought ‘Wow, I can die happy now’.

What drew me to Nottingham was the opportunity to do three years of independent research and then go into an academic position. Normally, if you start as a lecturer or assistant professor your teaching can put research on the back burner for a while. With my Anne McLaren Fellowship, I can set up my research programme first and teaching responsibilities follow later.

The other tropical researchers based here in the School of Geography, as well as in Life Sciences, were a big draw. I have always been interested in applying remote sensing techniques to my research and expertise here makes this possible and will broaden my research scope. We work with images from satellites, planes and also drones.

These images offer wider spectral responses and access to information on a bigger scale. It’s another means of collecting data – a different view on the world; I’m on the ground and they’re looking from above. It’s great to combine expertise: we’ve discovered a wealth of possibilities together.

I have to say that the University support is amazing. The Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) helps with grants and gives so much support. The biggest grant I’d had was the Anne McLaren Fellowship and I’m now writing grant bids for 10 times that amount!

The magic hasn’t worn off, especially if you get a chance to go to a whole new area. I’d never been to South East Asia before so to go to Malaysia last year, to see how the forest there differs from South America, was great. My plan is to extend my liana project over South East Asia, but one step at a time! Being at Nottingham in a way has opened-up a whole new continent for me.”

 

Dr Frankie Rawson
Nottingham Research Fellow
School of Pharmacy

Dr Frankie Rawson, a current Nottingham Research Fellow in the School of Pharmacy has been working to develop smart novel electrochemical nano-system for studying and controlling cellular processes on a molecular scale.

 

Dr Lisa White
Anne McLaren Fellow
School of Pharmacy

Dr Lisa White, a current Anne McLaren Fellow in the School of Pharmacy has been working on the study of hydrogels through her fellowship, investigating their potential for clinical delivery and to support tissue regeneration.

 

Dr Gary Mirams
Nottingham Research Fellow
School of Mathematical Sciences

Dr Gary Mirams, a current Nottingham Research Fellow in the School of Mathematical Sciences has been focusing on the use of cardiac electrophysiology modelling for studying pharmaceutical drug safety. Being a Nottingham Research Fellow allows Gary the time and support to deliver research that has real impact.

 

 

Dr Samanta Piano
Former Nottingham Advance Research Fellow
Faculty of Engineering

Dr Samanta Piano, Assistant Professor in Metrology and a former Nottingham Advance Research Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering. During her fellowship at the University she focused on the development of probes for high sensitive magnetrometry using ultracold atoms. Since completing her fellowship, Samanta has become Assistant Professor in Metrology and investigates new optical techniques and systems for 3D precision measurements.

 

Holger Schnädelbach 
Nottingham Research Fellow
School of Computer Science 

What is your position and role at the University?

I am a Nottingham Research Fellow in the Mixed Reality Lab in the School of Computer Science at the Senior Research Fellow grade.

Why did you apply for a Fellowship?

The fellowship offered both a fantastic opportunity to conduct further research in my area of specialism and it provides a route to a permanent post at the University.

Why Nottingham?

I like Nottingham as a city, I have been here for quite a while and I live here with my family. Beyond these more personal reasons, people in the School of Computer Science and the University have been supportive throughout and the research environment is great. I have been working in the school since 1999.

What has the experience been like?

A fellowship like this offers enormous freedom. A colleague of mine a little while back described it as similar to being self-employment, implying that a lot of expectations and may be even pressure come with that freedom. Research-wise, I have been able to push my chosen research agenda and at the same time there has been the constant risk that things might not work out or won’t come together in the end. Unlike in a larger project, there is only one person who can take responsibility for that in a fellowship. Overall though, the experience has been enormously enjoyable so far, and I have been able to collaborate with a whole number of University colleagues and external partners.

How would you explain your research?

My research is concerned with buildings that are adaptive to people and their surroundings. Such buildings merge ubiquitous computing technologies (sensors, actuators, software infrastructure) with the fabric of buildings. My emphasis is on how people live with the resulting Adaptive Architecture and how this is impacted through the use of personal data.

What inspired you to pursue this area?

This has been a long-standing research interest for me, going back to my years as a student in the Architecture School at the University of Nottingham in the mid-Nineties. In design projects then, I was looking at merging physical and real environments and was given additional support by the Mixed Reality Lab. Today, Adaptive Architecture is a recognised multidisciplinary concern that spans architecture, computing, engineering, social sciences and art.

How will your research affect the average person?

People occupy buildings during a large proportion of their lives and more and more people live in cities. Urban environments and individual buildings are increasingly augmented with technology that captures and uses our personal data. This stretches from automatic number plate recognition on motorways to ID cards providing access to building facilities. On the research side, we have been experimenting with architecture prototypes that use physiological data (respiration, heart beat, body movement, etc) to adapt the immediate environment around people. This work has demonstrated the feedback loops that emerge, where people adapt their behaviours in response to adaptive environments. This area is growing but remains relatively poorly understood. 

What challenges are you hoping to tackle?

How do people live with adaptive environments that are emerging around them? We are using prototypes to probe certain combinations of human interactions with the building fabric and we address a number of concerns. Legibility is a first concern, where current implementations rarely make it clear how adaptations work and how data is being used. Control is a second key interest, where multiple stakeholders have access to interactive features and the data that underpins those. Finally, the ethics of using personal data in fundamentally shared environments is another angle that needs to be addressed. The overall challenge is then to understand which adaptive environment is suitable for which use (challenge us, calm us, keep us alert, entertain us, etc)

What has been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Being awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship shortly after completion of my PhD. That fellowship allowed me to consolidate my research focus around Adaptive Architecture. 

Who or what has helped you get to where you are today?

Working with an amazing, multi-disciplinary set of people within and outside of the University.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Apply for smaller pots of University-internal funding, to both drive your research agenda and to learn the ropes with regards to structuring research bids and managing research projects. Volunteer for doing reviews (of papers and of proposals) to both help the community and to understand how other people go about developing arguments.

 
Nesma Aboulkhair
Anne McLaren Fellow
Centre for Additive Manufacturing

Why did you apply for a Fellowship?

A fellowship promotes independence, allowing you to research your passion. I pursued a career in research and academia mainly for the freedom of thought that it offers… we push the boundaries of knowledge. I believe that a fellowship is the most logical way to be able to do the work without the limitations of having an industrial sponsor to fund the research. It’s an honour in itself to hold a fellowship that promotes women in STEM fields. The fellowship considers the hurdles that we women face – there is still room for improvement to push women to achieve their goals in these fields.

Why Nottingham?

After finishing my PhD at Nottingham, I was advised to change university for the benefits of mobility. But I wasn’t convinced that I should leave one of the largest additive manufacturing groups in the world. The diversity in this group means that there will always be new stuff to learn. Therefore, I chose Nottingham. Only a couple of months after starting my postdoc, Professor Chris Tuck (my line manager) started talking to me about my career plans and how I should crack on right away to plan ahead. He and my mentor, Professor Richard Hague, motivated me to apply for fellowships and seek independence, making me even more confident that I made the right decision to stay at Nottingham. My mentors are not just interested in me spending hours in the lab to generate data so they can have publications – they really care about developing high-quality researchers. Last, but not least, this research group’s focus on the next generation of additive manufacturing sets us apart. I cannot find anything that would be more convincing to stay at Nottingham than this reason.

What has the experience been like?

The application process took seven-to-eight months. These were not the most relaxing months of my life but in retrospect I did enjoy every bit of it. If you are passionate about the research you want to conduct, you will find joy in the process of telling people about what you aspire to do and convincing them that it is worthy of funding and their trust. My love for my project grew with every day of the application process. Most importantly, the experience helped me learn how to put my research into context for the wider community.

How would you explain your research?

Metaljet is a highly novel droplet-on-demand technology. It dispenses molten micro-droplets of high temperature metals to produce 3D-printed micro-electronic components. My research tailors the process to produce a consistent stream of uniform molten copper droplets (melting point of 1085º C) to fabricate high-quality parts additively, which will be a world-first. Processing of copper via additive techniques is problematic and this investigation will be highly novel. The research will also look into the deposition of the droplets onto an insulating substrate to ensure a good sound bond. Furthermore, it will study the stacking of the droplets to construct defect-free parts. Metaljet is still a developmental process requiring fundamental research to optimise the process for defect-free parts. As with most metal additive manufacturing techniques, a part is built through creating lines that overlap to form a layer. This will allow higher degrees of complexity and flexibility in manufacturing intricate structures whilst maintaining accuracy and precision.

What inspired you to pursue this area?

I am a mechanical engineer, specialising in materials and manufacturing, so this fits perfectly within the expertise that I have gathered during my studies and working in the industry. Technological devices are becoming ever-more compact and complex, with ever-increasing demands for functionality and efficiency. This demands an exponential increase in the pace of development of manufacturing technologies. I wanted to contribute to this by helping present the manufacturers with a novel metal 3D-printer to be used for manufacturing 3D electronics. This will save resources, reduce production costs and end-products’ prices.

How will your research affect the average person?

Micro-electronic components manufacturers will have unprecedented ability to fabricate complex and intricate structures. They will be able to produce more efficient components for the technological products that are used every day to make lives easier and more productive. For example, this project will promote the possibility of fabricating 3D electronics that will reduce packaging and energy consumption in addition to increasing robustness. This process uses only the material needed to produce the part so it saves on raw materials and lowers costs and so is much less damaging to the environment. We are bridging the gap between the technology and the end-user manufacturers.

What challenges are you hoping to tackle?

Metaljet is a bespoke machine so there is no experience out there with running the system and it requires troubleshooting. We now have a significantly stable system – but of course, we’re always alert for any Metaljet surprises! Scientifically, for example, I would like to print the copper droplets on to a dielectric substrate to be used in electronic applications. There is a chance that I might not be able to find a dielectric substrate that would be compatible with copper, meaning that I will not be able to get my droplets to stick to the substrate. But again, I believe my planned solutions have strong potential to mitigate these risks. As I have learnt at Nottingham, achieving a novel solution should always be my aim.

What has been the greatest moment of your career so far?

This is a hard one. I am still in a very early career stage but, so far, my career path has been full of great moments. For me, the greatest moment so far was holding the first 3D printed object produced by Metaljet drop-by-drop from a high temperature metal, and knowing that it was the first in the world.

Who or what has helped you get to where you are today?

First and foremost, my family. They had faith in us and so we had all the confidence we needed to succeed. I am also indebted to the invaluable education that I have received at Cairo University and The American University in Cairo (Egypt), and The University of Nottingham. The bright academics at these institutions armed me with the knowledge I needed to be where I am today.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Only do what you are passionate about and don’t try to convince yourself if the passion isn’t there. Research is a tough field – we are pushing the boundaries of knowledge and a research problem lives with you day and night. You think about it when you are out and about, in your sleep (believe me, it happens), just all the time. How can you spend as much time with something you are not deeply passionate about!

How does being based at the University of Nottingham allow you to fulfil your research aspirations?

Well, Nottingham has all what a researcher needs in terms of facilities and experiences to conduct high-quality research to impact the world. My research is based on an additive manufacturing technology available only at Nottingham, where the University is internationally leading. It fits within The University’s Transformative Technologies Global Research Theme, and will contribute to the objective of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Priority Area to become a world-leading hub for innovation in advanced manufacturing. The University is investing in the infrastructure of my area of research as demonstrated by the newly established Institute of Advanced Manufacturing, where the Centre for Additive Manufacturing plays a vital role. Furthermore, the recently launched Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre (NMRC) has the state-of-the-art equipment that will help me conduct high-class research to be published in prestigious journals.

 
Graham Newton
Nottingham Research Fellow
School of Chemistry

What is your position and role at the University?

I’m a Nottingham Research Fellow, and now also an Assistant Professor of Inorganic and Materials Chemistry.

Why did you apply for a Fellowship?

I had been working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Tsukuba in Japan for a few years, and loved it, but I felt like it was time to come back to the UK. The fellowship was a perfect way to get back into academia in this country as it gave me the resources and time I needed to build a research area and group.   

Why Nottingham?

I didn’t know much about Nottingham when I came for my interview, except that the Nottingham Research Fellowship was very attractive. I was really impressed by the School of Chemistry and the University, and I was surprised by how much I liked the city. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s a great place to live.

What has the experience been like?

The Fellowship has been great. When I started it was only me and a lab bench, but the group has grown steadily thanks to some great support in the School. We are now sitting at around 11 people in the lab, and research is going well. I’ve been so impressed by the collegiality of colleagues at the University, particularly the early career researchers, and I’ve made so many exciting connections and collaborations that the scope of my research has grown massively in these three years. 

How would you explain your research?

I work in the area of inorganic or nano-materials with applications in energy storage, electrocatalysis and solar fuels. In real terms, we make molecules that can reversibly pick up lots of electrons and then we try and use them in different ways!

What inspired you to pursue this area?

My PhD looked at the self-assembly of transition metal complexes, and the fundamental interactions and forces that drive the assembly of complex systems. I continued along this theme during my Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and began to specialise in the synthesis and characterisation of single molecule magnets or switchable molecular systems. These types of molecules may allow us to revolutionise data storage and processing in the future. When I moved to Nottingham I wanted to build on what I had learned but use the complex molecular systems I had been working with to address major global issues like energy storage and the generation of clean fuels.

How will your research affect the average person?

Global energy demands are expected to keep increasing over the coming decades, while the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (the most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas and primary product of typical fossil fuel combustion) is already at its highest level since records began and continues to grow. New approaches are therefore required if we are to address the energy deficit without risking further damage to the global climate and environment. Our research addresses both sides of this challenge as we aim to generate clean fuels using solar energy, convert waste CO2 into useful chemicals, and develop the next generation of energy storage and battery technologies.

What has been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Seeing my research group grow and produce amazing results means every day is exciting.

Who or what has helped you get to where you are today?

Of course family and friends! I guess that the majority of academics can thank their doctoral and postdoctoral supervisors for their mentorship and support. In my case, my PhD supervisor (Lee Cronin) showed me how to think differently about research and always push for the next level of insight. My Postdoc boss (Hiroki Oshio) taught me the importance of absolute accuracy and depth of knowledge. Without either of these guys I wouldn’t be the researcher I am today.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Keep having ideas, and silly ones are OK! Stay curious and don’t be put off by negative results, we can always learn something. Don’t just think about a project to start your career, try to make an area of research. Stay flexible and open to collaboration. Talk to your colleagues and be friendly.

How does being based at The University of Nottingham allow you to fulfil your research aspirations?

I’ve had great support from the School of Chemistry, and I have been really lucky to build many excellent collaborations both within the School and with researchers in different faculties. The research environment at Nottingham is very dynamic and there is a huge amount of support for researchers through the Research Priority Areas, UNICAS and the Beacons of Excellence. I’ve been able to engage with these entities and win funding to start numerous projects.

What next?

Keep doing exciting research and build the group. Develop fundamental chemistry that can be applied to real world systems and make a difference.  

 

 

Click here to view a full list of our current fellows.


 
 

World-class research at the University of Nottingham

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Athena Swan Silver Award