All posts by Cristobel Soares


Advanced Materials Workshop 24 April 2024

Thank you to Jon Goff, RHUL and David Voneshen, STFC for delivering the GRADnet Advanced Materials workshop on 24 April 2024 at Royal Holloway, University of London.  

Phoebe Meadows, Postgraduate Researcher at RHUL attended the workshop and shared her thoughts on the day:

“The day was run by Dr David Voneshen and Professor Jon Goff and provided an overview of subjects integral to the study of materials.

The day consisted of lectures and tutorials covering topics of structures, excitations, and large-scale facilities. This was a very useful exercise that allowed us to first learn the key principles of the subjects, and then apply that knowledge by going through tutorial questions and worked answers together.

We also got the chance to observe practical experiments using the x-ray diffractometer here at Royal Holloway. Short practicals were run so we could see in action the range of capabilities x-rays have when investigating powder or thin film samples. Following this, a brief overview of how you would typically analyse the collected data was demonstrated.

To conclude the workshop, we had the opportunity to use the information we had learnt throughout the day to present a short experiment proposal to the rest of the cohort. This was a chance to learn more about each other’s research interests and use our strengths to produce a compelling proposal to get beamtime for our thought up experiment.

Overall, the day was very beneficial and an occasion to bring together students from different universities and academic backgrounds, but with a shared interest in the study of materials.

Phoebe standing by an X-ray diffractometer, or XRD machine  at RHUL.  This is a device for analyzing and measuring the structure of materials.


Outreach & Public Engagement Workshop at RAS 20 March 2024

GRADnet’s in-person workshop, Developing Knowledge and Skills in Public Engagement, was delivered on the 20th March 2024 at the Royal Astronomical Society. The workshop was led and facilitated by SEPnet Director of Outreach and Public Engagement, Laura Meade, and SEPnet Outreach and Public Engagement Officers, Nuala O’Flynn (University of Hertfordshire), Dr Darren Baskill (University of Sussex), and Dr Eliza Hunt (Queen Mary University of London).

The interactive workshop was attended by enthusiastic postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers and aimed to ignite their passion for public engagement and act as a catalyst for fostering meaningful connections between researchers and the wider community. 

Throughout the afternoon, participants were encouraged to discuss their own research, and worked in groups to plan out the beginnings of a public engagement project linked to their work. The afternoon included:

  • An introduction to public engagement: defining and discussing what meaningful public engagement is, showcasing a range of public engagement projects that have been developed at SEPnet universities, and signposting where to find more examples.
  • Exploring why and how we engage with different audiences: considering different groups of people, what their interests are, and how to link this to your research.
  • Tips on logistical aspects of planning an activity: signposting to grant schemes, budgeting advice, and guidance on the best times of year to engage with different groups of people.
  • Evaluation advice: thinking about how to measure the impact of your activities, and the different purposes and motivations behind reporting.

Thank you to the Outreach team for delivering this useful and insightful workshop on behalf of GRADnet.



Congratulations to Prize Winners at Student-led Conferences!

The GRADnet Student-led Conferences took place on Wednesday, 13 March 2024 at One Park Crescent, London W1.  Prizes were awarded to the following PhD students:

GRADnet Student-led Conference:  Physics is You – Prize Winners:

Best best lightning talk:  Lucy Haddad, PhD Student at Queen Mary, University of London

Best presentation:  Noah Chulu Chinn, PhD Student at UCL.

GRADnet Student-led Conference:  Quantum Futures – Prize Winners:

Petros Zantis, PhD Student at University of Sussex won “Clarity of presentation”.

Anna Migo, PhD Student at University of Sussex won “Most ready for industry”.

Maria Violaris, PhD Student at University of Oxford won “Most creative presentation”.

See here for further details about both conferences.

Congratulations to all the prize winners and well done!


GRADnet Student-led Conferences 13 March 2024

The GRADnet Student-led Conferences was attended by over 50 delegates on 13 March in London W1.  This was a great opportunity for PhD students to present their research to their peers as they don’t get to present externally that often and to network. This is the 7th year that GRADnet has organised a student-led conference.

This year’s parallel conferences were: Quantum Futures: the second quantum revolution and how it will impact research and industry led by PhD Student Joe Aziz at RHUL and Physics is YOU! Celebrating diversity and discussing challenges in physics led by PhD Student Akeem Hart at QMUL and his organising team; Margaret-Ann Withington and Kymani Armstrong-Williams (Queen Mary University of London) Jess Lock (University of Sussex) Mattia Emma and Leah Wolf (Royal Holloway, University of London).

Thank you to our external speakers:   Mr Christopher Bishop, The Quantum Tech Podcast; Dr Marco Ghibaudi, Riverlane; Harriet van der Vliet, Oxford Instruments; Dr Clara Barker, Oxford University, Dr Luke Davis, UCL and Dr Nicolas Bonne, University of Portsmouth.

Delegates said: “it was a great atmosphere to give one’s first presentation”; “the external speakers’ talks were really interesting and useful” and “it’s one of the best events like this they had been to!”

Well done Joe, Akeem, Margaret-Ann, Kymani, Jess, Mattia and Leah for making this year’s event such a success!


GRADnet Turning Science into Business 6-7 February 2024

Thank you to Julia Shalet, Product Doctor, who once again, delivered a highly enjoyable interactive and practical “Turning Science into Business” workshop for SEPnet postgraduate researchers and undergraduate students this week at the Institute of Physics.

Over the two days, delegates worked in teams with a real case study, learning how to develop ideas & turn them into meaningful value propositions, reduce risk before committing any resource, map up new business models and practise a set of common business skills that employers are looking for.

We particularly appreciated her wide range of stories from working with start-ups through to corporates; and the group were super engaged with the 7 steps going from idea to good idea in her award-winning book, The Really Good Idea Test

Here’s what they said about it:

“Valuable insight into the world of business, across multiple different sectors – also useful in mainstream academia for thinking through our projects and revenue streams”

“Introduces an excellent toolbox to progress ideas – by the end you have something you can actually pursue and make a business model for, starting with identifying who you should talk with and what you should ask them”

“A very well-run course with a charismatic engaging facilitator – the stories and practical interactive exercises applying toolkits really deepened our understanding”


SME-DTN Workshop: Shape an inclusive workplace culture through inclusive communication and allyship

The SME-DTN workshop: Shape an inclusive workplace culture through inclusive communication and allyship took place on Friday, 8 December 2023 at the Institute of Physics in London.  This workshop was designed for postgraduate researchers and their industry and academic supervisors as well as the wider SEPnet. 

The workshop, delivered by specialist inclusion training company, Altogether Different helped delegates build empathy with the challenges faced by people in historically marginalised communities – giving them the skills and confidence to support diversity and role model inclusion of all kinds with their team.

Navigating the world of workplace inclusion can be difficult. With ever evolving identity language, understanding unspoken barriers that people face at work and maintaining a culture of belonging, there’s a lot to think about.

Delegates were able to reflect on, and discuss, practical ways to be an ally and understand barriers that people in historically marginalised communities face in the workplace. Attendees learned that allyship comes in many forms, but ultimately, it’s when you’re not personally part of a particular marginalised community or communities but you take the challenges on as your own.

The workshop covered diversity areas such as Race & Ethnicity, Gender, LGBQTIA+, Neurodiversity, Age, Disability, World Religions – and how these facets of ourselves shape our experiences in the workplace.

Thank you to Charlotte Butler, Founder of Altogether Different our workshop leader.  Charlotte specialises in facilitating sometimes sensitive conversations about identity and workplace culture. Charlotte has worked across many different industries and organisations. Her friendly non-judgemental approach helped us to build a better understanding for workplace inclusion – leaving participants with practical tips and knowledge to put into practice right away.


GRADnet Induction Day welcomes new PhD Students!

The GRADnet Induction Day for first year PhD students took place on Wednesday, 18 October 2023 at One Park Crescent, London W1.

Professor Jacob Dunningham, SEPnet Executive Director welcomed over 50 postgraduate researchers from our six partner universities.  Attendees had the opportunity to attend two out of three parallel workshops as well as network over lunch at the one-day event.

Thank you to our workshops leads:

Tom Sharp and Laura Feetham-Walker, Institute of Physics:  Publication and peer review: how to make it as an author and a reviewer;

Nuala O’Flynn, SEPnet Outreach and Public Engagement Manager at University of Hertfordshire and Mily Riley, Bayfordbury Education Officer and Astronomy Events Coordinator at University of Hertfordshire, and Acting SEPnet Director of Outreach and Public Engagement:  Science communication skills;

Dr Thomas Stevenson, Research Fellow, Physics and Astronomy, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex and Caley Yardley, 2nd Year DISCnet PhD Student, University of Sussex:  Introduction to Machine Learning using ATLAS Open Data.

Attendees said the event was “very well organised”;  a “really useful day!” with a “good range of workshops”.

GRADnet looks forward to seeing this year’s cohort at future training events!


Public Engagement and Outreach Awards Night!

The SEPnet 2023 Public Engagement Awards ceremony took place on Monday 11th September at the Institute of Physics. The awards were a brilliant opportunity to recognise the amazing physicists delivering outstanding public engagement projects at our partner universities. The awards were presented in 7 categories, and different awards were open to individuals, projects, research groups and departments. A massive congratulations to all winners and those highly commended in categories.

Newcomer Award
Highly Commended – Physics Chat, University of Portsmouth

Winner – Dr Laurence Wroe, University of Oxford

Communication Award
Winner – Professor Claudia Maraston, University of Portsmouth

Innovation Project Award
Winner – Discovery Planet, University of Kent

Achievement Award

Highly Commended – Dr Thomas Hird, University of Oxford
Winner – Dr Stephen Wilkins, University of Sussex

Research Group Award
Highly Commended – Astronomy Unit, Queen Mary University of London

Highly Commended – Supernova Group, University of Southampton

Public Engagement Champion Award
Highly Commended – Dr Katherine Shirley, University of Oxford

Winner – Dr Tracey Berry, Royal Holloway University of London

Partnership Award
Winner – Big Data: ATLAS, University of Oxford

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!


SME-DTN Showcase Event at the RI a success!

The SME-DTN Showcase event was held on Wednesday, 20 September 2023 at the Royal Institution in Mayfair.  It was a great opportunity for our SME-DTN postgraduate researchers to present their research projects to such a varied audience and to network with SEPnet contacts. One of the guests summed up the evening saying it was “entertaining, educational and nourishment for the soul”! 

See below for the list of projects presented on the night:

Callum Barnes, University of Kent/Body Rocket:  Machine learning for optimisation of cycling performance using real-time aerodynamics.  The project aims to develop machine learning algorithms for real-time monitoring of aero dynamic drag, allowing cyclists to adjust their on-bike position dynamically for optimal performance.

Anthony Criscuolo, University of Surrey/Leo Cancer Care/National Physical Laboratory:  To develop a quantitative rationale for frequency & tolerance of QA programmes for current & state-of-the-art radiotherapy delivery technologies, requiring the development of innovative methodologies to quantify the effect of tolerance levels & to assess clinical impact & patient outcomes. 

Kevin Doty, University of Sussex/Advanced Materials Development:  Functional Nanomaterials Inks:  The development of scalable ink production processes for functional nanomaterials; Characterisation of printed films & functional nanomaterials and Integration of printed nanomaterials films within device structures. 

Stephanie King, University of Hertfordshire/3-Sci EngD:  The development of a portfolio of distributed condition management sensors for wind turbines and carbon storage infrastructure.

Pye Kwye, University of Surrey/Addionics:  Sustainable manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries by dry coating of solvent-free electrodes.  To develop dry coating methods, to enable solvent-free electrode processing, for sustainable manufacturing of LIBs, to drive the cost reduction of LIBs. The project will combine experimental and computational approaches to develop novel dry coating process, understand how the dry coating process affect the properties and performances of the electrodes, and optimize the dry coating parameters to achieve high performance LIBs. 

Alex McCann, University of Sussex/Advanced Materials Development/Rapiscan: Characterisation and crosslinking of graphene oxide towards explosive percolation in nanocomposites. Explosive percolation describes a phenomenon in composite materials where network conductivity coincides with additional chemical modification of the overall system. It has been demonstrated that templated composites of latex polymer and graphene oxide can form highly-conductive materials. Nanocomposite materials offer a way forward in many practical applications including flexible and wearable electronics, energy storage and harvesting, and strain sensing technologies. Understanding the mechanisms enabling this phenomenon may lead to further application in composites of metals, ceramics and thermosetting polymers.

Thank you to all participating companies and SEPnet partners in this scheme and to RED Fund for supporting this initiative.

L-R Alex McCann, Kevin Doty, Cristobel Soares,SME-DTN Project Manager, Stephanie King, Anthony Criscuolo and Callum Barnes.

Stephanie setting up her demonstration kit!


Extragalactic Astronomy Workshop 4-5 September 2023

Thank you to Dr Stephen Wilkins, Dr Will Roper and Dr Eva Mueller from the University of Sussex for delivering an excellent workshop:  Extragalactic Astronomy 4-5 September 2023 at Herstmonceux Castle.

The programme included:

  • Lightning Talks from Participants: All participants had the opportunity to give lightning (1 minute) talks on their own interests and research with a single slide.
  • An Introduction to Galaxy Formation and Evolution Stephen Wilkins (University of Sussex)
  • Modelling the spectral energy distributions of galaxies: Stephen Wilkins (University of Sussex), Will Roper (University of Sussex)
  • Modelling the spectral energy distributions of galaxies: Stephen Wilkins (University of Sussex), Will Roper (University of Sussex)
  • An introduction to galaxy formation simulations with SWIFT: Will Roper (University of Sussex)
  • The Future of Cosmology Missions: Eva Mueller (University of Sussex)
  • An introduction to galaxy formation simulations with SWIFT: Will Roper (University of Sussex)

Delegates were given a private tour of the Observatory Science Centre and time to explore the  beautiful grounds.  An added bonus was seeing the Milky Way! (Night sky photo courtesy of Louise Seeyav, University of Sussex)


Thank you to Jo Harris and her team at the Observatory Science Centre for the private tour of the centre for our SEPnet PGRs.