Doctoral Students

Cohort 1

Elisangela D’Oliveira I obtained a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering (2018) with a first class honours from the University of Sunderland and MSc in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Technologies (2019) from Northumbria University. My undergraduate project consisted in designing an Offshore Wind Turbine with a directional control system, sparkling my curiosity and appreciation for the world of renewable technologies. I volunteer for an organisation called EcoAngola, promoting awareness of climate change and conducting sustainability projects. Undertaking this PhD, would provide me with the right skills and knowledge to pursue the career I aspires to within the renewable energy sector. My research is to investigate the heat transfer enhancement in TES with PCM, with the aim of creating a cost-effective design that would promote a wider utilisation of renewable resources for heating systems and hot water in the industrial and residential sector. Besides of being highly supported, one of the highlights that the ReNU programme has to offer, is the business and innovation training as well as exposing the students to other subjects outside of it is expertise area.

Project Title – Investigation of heat transfer enhancement in thermal storage systems with phase change materials
Supervisor – Dr Carolina Costa


Jayne English Before beginning this PhD, I completed a Masters in Chemistry at Newcastle University and have spent time working in the semiconductor industry. I chose to do a PhD in renewable energy because it is a very exciting field with lots of research opportunities to help tackle the sustainable energy crisis we are currently facing. This is an issue I feel passionate about, and wanted to have the chance to research into a potential solution. I chose the ReNU CDT, as it offers a lot of opportunities to collaborate with a range of students from different universities and backgrounds, which was very appealing.

Project Title – Green solar cells
Supervisor – Dr Elizabeth Gibson and Dr Pablo Docampo


Ella Fidment I studied undergraduate Chemistry and Earth Sciences at Durham University and graduated in July 2019, and I have a long standing interest in renewable energy. I was an active member of the Student Energy Society at Durham University and was given the opportunity to represent the UK as a student delegate at the 2017 Student Energy Conference held in Mérida, Mexico, which was an amazing experience and a unique insight into the work undertaken by students aiming to solve local and global energy issues. I’m now researching the electrochemical reduction of CO2 to multi-carbon products at Newcastle University. I was drawn to a PhD in renewable energy as the research is often interdisciplinary, and builds on the knowledge and skills I gained from Chemistry and Earth Sciences undergraduate study. This PhD in renewable energy will continue to challenge me to examine and integrate a wide range of interdisciplinary research to develop new understanding and solutions for renewable energy options. For me, the key feature of ReNU is the collaboration and close network support of PhD students across the ReNU universities to conduct impactful research.

Project Title – Photoelectrocatalytic CO2 reduction to chemicals and fuels
Supervisor – Dr Eileen Yu and Dr Elizabeth Gibson


Miriam Fsadni I obtained my BSc (Hons.) degree in Chemistry from the University of Malta in 2015. An Erasmus+ traineeship at Newcastle University during my final year led to the opportunity to work as a research scientist for NewChem Technologies Ltd., a spin-out CRO from Newcastle University. After a year in industry, I decided to further my education and pursued an MPhil in organic chemistry part-time alongside my work. My research had two focus areas; (i) the synthesis of stereospecifically labelled deuterated decanes and (ii) cannabinoid chemistry (in collaboration with industry partners). Having been interested in renewable energy and sustainability from a young age, I was eager to learn about the work being done in this area within NECEM during my time in Newcastle. I believe the ReNU CDT is an invaluable opportunity to develop as a researcher and to contribute to the work being done to address the ever growing climate crisis we face. I look forward to using theoretical and computational chemistry together with my background in organic synthesis, to understand, develop and test new materials for solar cell devices. Through rational design, we could improve the performance of organic hole transporters used in hybrid perovskite solar cells, to provide efficient, low-cost alternatives to silicon-based photovoltaic cells.

Project Title – Intermolecular charge transport: A novel design paradigm
Supervisor – Dr Tom Penfold and Dr Pablo Docampo


Ewan Matheson During my physics degree, my first technical dive into material physics came from the Semiconductor and Thermal and Nuclear modules in second year. These subjects sparked my interest and motivated me to pursuit a placement with PepsiCo where I was responsible for researching polymer and soft matter physics within Global Snacks R&D. After returning from placement, I undertook my final year project in characterising surface and interface treatment of CZTS-CdS solar cells using chemical etching at the interface and an aerosol CO2 snow jet on the buffer layer surface. As a PhD student, my research entails combining low cost synthesis of nanostructures with atomic layer deposition for energy conversion and transfer.

Project Title – Atomically thin layers for energy harvesting and storage
Supervisor – Dr Neil Beattie


Matthew Naylor Throughout my undergraduate physics degree I enjoyed studying the discipline of photovoltaics and became very interested in material science – specifically how the properties of a material may be manipulated for better absorption of incident photons. Working on alternative solar cell materials for my final year project broadened this interest whilst benefiting from interactions with the local photovoltaics research group. Pursuing a PhD in thin film photovoltaics is attractive from an environmental aspect. Working with earth abundant materials which can be used in thinner devices that require less energy to fabricate is a great sustainable research motive. The CDT ReNU initiative is an amazing opportunity to align academic interest with a passion for renewable energy whilst benefiting from a collaborative research programme.

Project Title – Tailoring interfaces in Earth abundant thin film solar cells
Supervisor – Dr Guillaume Zoppi


Ian Brewis I graduated from an integrated master’s (MPhys) Northumbria University (UK) in 2018 with a first class honours. From my final year of university I knew I had a strong interest in research and took time searching for the right PhD to suit my interests. ReNU stood out for me due to the impact of the research projects available in combating the current energy and environmental crises. During my final year at undergraduate level, I found I especially enjoyed knowing that the research conducted during my final year project could do some good. Being a part of such an important area of research such as in renewable energy, in particular as part of ReNU, makes me feel that not only will the research I conduct throughout my PhD help take some steps toward making a difference, but the additional doctoral training provided will help to develop my skills as a researcher and to develop my interest in other areas throughout the renewable energy sector.

Project Title – Designing the materials for production of tailored and sustainable aviation fuels from waste CO2 and water
Supervisor – Dr Shahid Rasul


Ryan Voyce Being from Blyth has meant I am always surrounded by advancements in renewable technologies coming from the wind farms off the coast including talks in school from Narec about their manufacture and testing process for turbine blades. Interest in the field of photovoltaics has been a recent interest of mine but looking into the topic has shown a wealth of advancements and processes which is bringing new technology and material to the forefront of research. Having a chance to give my contribution to the subject is a goal I am striving for. ReNU has offered an excellent opportunity to research emerging materials and fabrication techniques with solar cell technologies while also providing a great infrastructure to gain knowledge of other forms of renewable energy research. Being part of a cohort of like-minded individuals embraces the spreading of ideas – inspiration can freely flow based on a route a colleague may be taking. Additionally, overcoming tasks set by industries in the renewables field will help in preparation for my future after the PhD by giving a realistic sample of what it’s like to work in that sector.

Project Title – Low cost nanostructured antimony selenide for embedded energy systems 
Supervisor – Dr Vincent Barrioz


Rhys Williams I’ve been interested in renewable energy for a long time, mostly due to concerns about the environment, and after doing my MSc by Research in the Physics Department at Durham I knew that a PhD in renewable energy would be right for me. The ReNU CDT interested me primarily because of the interesting projects on offer, but also because of the broad training in renewable energy that runs alongside the projects.

Project Title – Low-Dimensional Hybrid Materials for Energy Storage Technologies
Supervisor – Dr Michael Hunt


Oliver Rigby In my future career I want to be actively working towards a greater understanding of physics and to combine this with a positive global impact. ReNU provides a fantastic opportunity to do just this as well as to learn important interdisciplinary skills in business which will help ensure the renewable energy industry can be far reaching. The motivations to work with solar cells are many and varied but mostly I am excited to support a future where energy usage is as environmentally friendly as possible. Throughout my undergraduate I always found myself drawn towards condensed matter as a topic and I am enthusiastic to have the opportunity to not only continue my learning but also to make a contribution of my own

Project Title – Ferroelectric solar cells for Terra Watt electricity generation
Supervisor – Dr Budhika Mendis


Dominic Shiels Throughout my studies I have realised that I enjoy being tasked with solving increasingly difficult challenges. The prospect of overcoming the odds and finding solutions motivates me to be successful. One of the biggest challenges facing humanity as a whole is climate change and the development of new renewable energy technologies appears to be one of the primary avenues to overcome this. With this in mind, the opportunity to study as a doctoral researcher as part of ReNU allows me to become part of a like-minded, multi-disciplinary team that will tackle some of the biggest challenges of today and (hopefully) solve them. This, along with the expansive innovation and business training available, will give me the foundation to achieve success in the future. Specifically, I am looking forward to applying my background in synthetic chemistry to develop novel polyoxometalates that will have application in electrolytic water splitting.

Project Title – Polyoxometalate mediators for flow anodes in electrolytic water splitting
Supervisor – Dr John Errington and Dr Mohamed Mamlouk


Cai Williams Having completed a MEng degree at Bangor University I was attracted to a PhD in renewable energy from previous experience of researching the modeling of photovoltaics and storage in the context of residential, commercial, and industrial energy systems. Combined with the ever-growing need for renewable solutions for all aspects of day to day life, this cemented my desire to undertake a PhD in renewable energy. I was attracted to ReNU due to the further training, which is offered alongside the PhD, allowing for a wider view of the renewable energy sector that would not otherwise be achieved without further training making myself of greater value to future employers, be it in academia or industry.

Project Title – Modelling of high performance OPVs with integrated storage
Supervisor – Dr Chris Groves