PHH students recognised at Festival of Doctoral Research


PhD students Nicholas Wong, Matt Posner, and Peijun He have won several Doctoral College Director’s Awards in various themes during the Festival of Doctoral Research.

The Festival of Doctoral Research 2016 is a week-long inaugural event organised by the newly formed Doctoral College to celebrate and showcase the university’s vibrant postgraduate researcher (PGR) community. Running from 12 to 27 May, 2016, the over 35 activities included guest speakers, the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Grand Final, and the Public Engagement Showcase, and all culminated in the Closing Ceremony on 27 May with the Researcher Photography Competition and Exhibition as well as the Doctoral College Director’s Awards.

With over 50 nominations, the awards covered four themes: Education, Enterprise & Impact, Citizenship & Community, and Engagement & Outreach, with three winners chosen per theme by a judging panel.

Third year PhD student Peijun He won the award for the Enterprise & Impact theme for his work on an EPSRC project on laser-written paper-based diagnostics for point-of-care healthcare applications. “With the success of this research, we are currently in the process of creating a spin-out company to manufacture the paper sensors and have also had discussions with 80 companies to establish the optimum route to commercialise a whole host of medical sensors,” he commented.

Dr Paul Bastock, a research fellow and former student of the ORC, was an Enterprise & Impact theme runner up for his extensive pioneering work on fabricating glass/metal composite fibres, a project which started during his PhD and that has now spawned international collaborations with numerous medical, defence, and scientific organisations and universities, including the Francis Crick Institute, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the USA, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and our university’s Institute for Life Sciences. A patent has also been filed for Paul’s process.

Fourth year student Nicholas Wong was recognised with two awards. He won in the Citizenship & Community theme for his services as president of the student-led University of Southampton Optics and Photonics Society (OPSoc). He contributed to enhancing the ORC and other photonics-related student communities by spearheading several endeavours including establishing an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photonics Society student chapter to complement the existing Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE student chapters; promoting diversified society participation among students from the ORC, the Quantum Light and Matter group (Physics and Astronomy), the Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology group (ECS), and the IEEE Student Branch; and improving photonics PGR presence in the university through affiliation with the Students’ Union.

Nicholas was also awarded under the Engagement & Outreach theme, jointly with third year student Matt Posner, for leading the acclaimed Lightwave Roadshow outreach programme, which seeks address the STEM skills shortage by teaching and engaging young students and the public with optics through hands-on experiments.

“I am thankful for these awards and the recognition of my contributions to the PGR and outreach communities. Each award respectively raises the profiles of OPSoc and the Lightwave Roadshow within the university and could potentially open doors to future collaborations,” shared Nicholas.

Matt commented, “The Lightwave Roadshow has been vital in my development as a researcher, through developing new teaching material, organising events, developing networks and making me comfortable in presenting my research to a large and diverse audience. I am delighted that we have received recognition for our work on the programme and I would encourage all to become a part of our growing team of Lightwave ambassadors.”

Also held during the closing ceremony was the Researcher Photography Competition and Exhibition, which showcased PGR photo submissions under the theme of “Resilience in Research”. Two ORC students were featured: Fourth year PhD student Tina Parsonage appeared in a photograph, by Pina Gruden from the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, depicting the ability to balance stress and pressure induced by research with nature, hobbies, and support from close ones. Their photograph won the competition’s Jury Prize.

Nicholas Wong’s “Resilience in Optoelectronics” highlighted the patience required of researchers in conducting experiments, especially even in basic tasks like optical alignment.

The ORC also saw participation in the festival’s Three Minute Thesis competition. Earlier in March, fourth year student A. V. Harish won the competition at the FPSE level. He subsequently went on to represent our faculty in the in Grand Finals by communicating his work on building high power fibre lasers.