Cohort 5 Students

Ariadna Vidal Captivated by the wonders of the natural world and laboratory work, I decided that I wanted to be a researcher to protect our planet. I studied a BSc in Biology and a MSc in Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology at the University of Barcelona. During my studies, I worked as a researcher and technician in different projects about soil and aquatic microbial ecology at the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC). After the completion of my studies, I did a graduate internship at Newcastle University working in microbial biotechnology. Aiming to use microorganisms as a tool to solve sustainability problems and interested in the partnership between academia and industry, I decided to apply for a PhD in Energy Materials at Newcastle University with the ReNU CDT. My project will focus on enhancing biohydrogen production from agricultural waste using synthetic biology tools with a multi-omics approach.

Project Title – Enhanced biohydrogen production from agricultural waste using synthetic biology
Supervisor – Dr. Thomas Howard (Newcastle University), Dr. Sharon Velasquez (Newcastle University), Dr. Leonardo Rios (UCL) and Dr. Jose Muñoz (Northumbria University)

Samuel Hayes Before starting my PhD, I graduated with a Master of Physics (MPhys) degree from the University of Manchester. In my final year I undertook an MPhys project that was focused on silicon PV, which sparked my interest in renewable energy. The project investigated whether a graphene oxide coating could be used to improve the optical and electronic properties of silicon, whilst being less energy intensive than the most popular material used, silicon nitride. This lead smoothly on to applying for the ReNU studentship.

My PhD project is focused on investigating the electronic structure of energy materials through electron Compton scattering. By using a transmission electron microscope equipped with an electron energy loss spectrometer, the energy loss spectrum can be measured, and the Compton profile can be extracted which provides information on the electron density of the material. This can then be compared to computational quantum simulation, namely density functional theory. ReNU allows me to gain a deeper understanding into the wider context of my project, especially because of its multidisciplinary nature and additional training.

Project Title – Investigation of the electronic structure of energy materials through electron Compton scattering

Supervisor – Dr. Budhika Mendis and Prof. Stewart Clark

Nada Omran I obtained my B.Sc. degree in Textile Engineering from Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, Egypt in 2019. Afterwards I pursued my M.Sc. in Textile Engineering at Wuhan Textile University in China with a research direction of Functional Nanofibrous Materials. Since then, I worked as a research assistant then a senior research assistant at Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University. My research work is focusing on the usage of nanofibrous materials and nano/micro spinning techniques towards the production of flexible substrates for multi-disciplinary research projects such as energy harvesting and energy recovery applications.

Through my PhD project, I am working on utilizing textiles, nano/microfibers and polymeric materials, in our daily fabric-based applications and how to functionalize fibers for energy recovery applications, specifically as an individual who has always been passionate about sustainability and environmentally friendly industry, I find it truly inspiring to contribute through ReNU CDT in the initiatives aimed at transitioning to more sustainable alternatives, and to be well trained and qualified for developing a new era of renewable energy.

Project Title – Functionalizing Fibres for Energy Recovery Applications

Supervisor – Dr. Linzi Dodd

Amna Ijaz I graduated with first-class honours in Material Science and Engineering in 2021 from the Institute of Space Technology (IST), where my final year project focused on “Stoichiometric modulation of monomer feed to fabricate film-forming aramid.” Through this project, I gained a profound understanding of materials and chemistry and aimed to contribute to sustainability development goals.

Following the successful completion of my undergraduate studies, I wasted no time in making a meaningful impact in the field. I began my professional journey as a graduate assistant at the prestigious Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute, where I eagerly delved into various research projects. There, I worked on projects like enhancing the thermal stability of polymers, resulting in the publication of the paper “Enhanced Thermal Stability of Polymers by Incorporating Novel Surface Decorated SrTiO3@Graphene Nano-Platelets.”

With a clear vision of contributing to the UK’s zero-emission law, I set my sights on pursuing a Ph.D. in renewable energy. This prestigious endeavor led me to ReNU CDT at Northumbria University. I am excited to collaborate with ReNU CDT, an institution known for its dedication to sustainable energy solutions. My mission is to advance energy materials and renewable energy technologies for a more sustainable future.

Project Title – Design and Development of a Standalone Solar-Powered Device for Carbon-Neutral Formic Acid Production from CO2

Supervisor – Dr Muhammad Wakil Shahzad

Stephen Orritt I graduated from Lancaster University with an integrated master’s in mechanical engineering. Both of my BEng and MEng projects were focused on the experimental testing and CFD simulation of a novel hydro turbine. My enjoyment of the projects inspired me to want to continue in the research field. During my master’s year I specialised in energy and resources as I have an interest in renewable technology, especially fluid machinery where I furthered my knowledge on both hydro and wind energy systems.   

The opportunity provided to me by RENU allowed me to further my research skills, utilising my current skillset in simulating fluid machinery and applying it to the investigation of ‘Aerodynamic design and aeroelasticity analysis of vertical axis wind turbine farms’. Furthermore, through the additional training provided by RENU I can expand my knowledge across the renewable energy sector. The mini projects alongside my main PhD project at RENU will provide me with great industry links as well as the opportunity to work on fascinating projects in the energy sector.

Project Title – Aerodynamic design and aeroelasticity analysis of vertical axis wind turbine farms

Supervisor – Dr Mohammad Rahmati, Dr Mahdi Erfanian Nakhchi

Ali Badakhshan My academic journey began with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, which I earned at Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). Then I pursued a Master of Science in Systems Engineering at Sharif University of Technology (SUT), where my research focused on leveraging Artificial Intelligence to establish a robust framework for stock market trading.

Driven by my favour for the intersection of Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering, I embarked on my academic venture at Durham University in 2023. As a member of RENU team, I have been dedicated to my doctoral research on Artificial intelligence sides of developing next generation battery which align with ambitious  net-zero carbon emission goal.

Project Title – Designing and Developing Sustainable Battery Materials with Artificial Intelligence

Supervisor – Dr. Mehdi Keshavarz-Hedayati and Professor Andrew Gallant

Andreas Zannetou In 2021, I graduated with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from Northumbria University. I continued my studies at Northumbria University, successfully completing a Masters in biotechnology in 2022. During this course, I developed a keen interest in synthetic biology and renewable energy research, and began to appreciate their potential to make a significant contribution to environmental sustainability goals. My Masters project focused on biohydrogen research and involved engineering the regulatory hydrogenase from Cupriavidus necator to function as a hydrogen biosensor in Escherichia coli.

After a year of industry experience at SUEZ as an Organics Laboratory Analyst, where I tested soil and water samples for chemical hazards, I made the decision to dedicate my career towards research. I was lucky enough to win a place in the ReNU CDT doctoral research program in renewable energy. My PhD project is a collaboration between Newcastle University, Northumbria University and an industrial partner, Procter and Gamble (P&G). The research involves engineering bacteria to link carbon capture with synthetic metabolic pathways, hopefully resulting in bacterial growth on waste CO2 and the subsequent production of valuable biochemicals. The ReNU postgraduate program provides a fantastic opportunity to bridge academia and industry, offering invaluable training and industrial connections.

Project Title – Engineering Bacteria for Enhanced Hydrogen‐Dependent Carbon Dioxide Capture

Supervisor – Prof. Frank Sargent and Dr Ciarán Kelly

Pierre-Louis Peuch I acquired a Master’s Degree in Physics from Durham University in 2023, and I am passionate about physics and sciences in general. In the third year of my Master’s, I undertook a computing project, which used the Monte Carlo method to investigate Λ-type transitions in 3-level atomic systems; I particularly focused on accurately modelling predicting the decay rate 5D3/2 state of Ba II. In 2022-23, as part of my final Master’s project, I investigated Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) in computational astrophysics. FRBs were discovered in 2007. There are today a plethora of competing theories and models to explain their possible origin(s), from aliens to hyper massive neutron stars collisions, to magnetars and cosmic string bursts. I have used data from the CHIME telescope collecting radio waves and I showed high correlation with data from Fermi LAT, indicating that gamma rays are also very likely to be emitted within an hour of an FRB emission. I used both short time exposure photon counts maps and machine learning cluster analysis techniques to come to these conclusions. These findings are in line with suggesting that certain magnetars are responsible for FRBs, which is where the most recent literature leans towards.

I was particularly interested in joining the ReNU CDT, as I have always been keen to effectively contribute to the mitigation of the climate crisis and to work in an interdisciplinary context. My project focuses on characterising and designing novel antiferroelectric materials for use in energy storage applications. This research will involve both computational modelling (using Density-Functional Theory) and experiments in the lab. Another aspect that motivated me for this programme is the range of partners and the many possible industrial connections to be made.

Project Title – Designing new antiferroelectrics for energy storage applications

Supervisor – Dr Nicholas Bristowe and Dr Emma McCabe

Denise Bildan In 2023, I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Materials Engineering at the University of the Philippines Diliman. I became actively involved in the E-Minerals 2 Project where I carried out research on battery recycling and synthesis of Li-ion battery cathodes, sparking my interest in energy materials. I expanded my experience by volunteering as a laboratory assistant at the Composite Materials Laboratory and by working as an intern under the AeroComp Project. As part of this project, I worked on natural fibre-reinforced polymer composites for ballistic applications and investigated the electrochemical corrosion of medical-grade steel for orthopaedic biomedical applications. These varied endeavours were formative in kindling my interest in energy storage and conversion technologies, as well as novel and advanced materials.
I am thrilled about the opportunity to establish my research at Northumbria University through the EPSRC ReNU CDT where I plan to develop advanced polymer-based composite electrolyte membranes able to withstand most mechanical and chemical damage during fuel cell operation. I aspire to explore the recent breakthroughs in hydrogen and fuel cell technology, contributing to the search for advanced materials that reduce the environmental impact of current systems.

Project Title – Synthesis of Novel 2D Material-Enhanced Composite Polymer Electrolyte Membranes for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Applications

Supervisor – Dr Terence Liu

Phoebe Clayton I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2022 with a First Class master’s in chemistry. My undergraduate studies inspired me to look further into current and future potential renewable technologies. This led me to apply to carry out my master’s research project as a part of Professor Michael Graetzel research group at EPFL. My project involved developing a sustainable synthesis technique for perovskite solar cells. I mainly focused on the use of IR as a rapid thermal annealing technique. Over my time in this group, I was able to improve the stability and performance of my solar cells through the refinement of my procedure as well as chemical and interface engineering This project allowed me to gain practical experience within sustainable chemistry.

My PhD project with ReNU is focused on the hydrogenation of CO2 to jet fuel. Sustainable aviation fuels have shown to have a 70% reduction in lifecycle carbon making them much more attritive than petroleum based jet fuels. My research will be utilising zinc-based hydrogenation functionality and zeolitic BrØnsted acidic sites to achieve the hydrogenation of CO2. I will examine how the nature and location of different catalytic components affects the overall catalytic function. The conversion of CO2 to jet fuel will be explored using flow reactors coupled with GCMS .

I am looking forward to the learning opportunities and collaboration provided by the ReNU CDT over the next 4 years as a part of Cohort 5.

Project Title – CO2 Fuels – Direct conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Renewable Fuels.

Supervisor – Dr Russell Taylor

Nick L. Theodorou  After school in the West Midlands it was four years in London with UCL for Physics MSci; three years in Cardiff with Alacrity (and Sir Terry Matthews!) for a tech startup; and several years running my own IT consultancy (which gave me a lot of freedom to travel and pursue independent projects, although income was not steady-state!)

I’ve been lucky to try many things and one opportunity was the Institute of Physics Top40 undergraduate work placement scheme – there I gained first-hand knowledge of tech transfer at a DSSC manufacturer (the largest private sector investment in Wales at the time, and first renewable device manufacturer in the world to itself be a renewably self-powered facility). 

My goal is to identify opportunities rooted in basic science that are capable of wide commercialisation and research impact. 

My MSci project involved simulating the next generation of table-top particle accelerators to achieve CERN-like energy scales with Leptons, via plasma wakefields rather than RF cavities.

Project Title – Design and fabrication of tunable Meta Materials (Meta Surfaces) for coupling to Photovoltaic devices and sensor / detector applications

Supervisor – Prof. Hamdi Torun

William Norfolk  I graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Leeds in 2017 and an MSc in Environmental Consultancy in 2021, working in scientific marketing and analyses in between. After my MSc I worked at an environmental testing lab first as a technician, chemist, and then as an inorganics coordinator. During my time at the lab I gained experience analysing metals, anions, cyanides, phenols, total organic carbon and other techniques for analysis of waters and soils. My PhD is focused on the analysis of waste streams generated from subsurface green energy projects and looking at ways of recycling technologically critical elements from these processes. This project is a great chance to combine my skills learned through academia and industry to enhance the circular economy of the UK.

Project Title – Enhancing the circular economy of subsurface green energy projects through improved treatment and valorisation of waste

Supervisor – Dr Shannon Flynn & Dr Mark Ireland

Becky Wignall  In July 2023 I graduated from Newcastle University with an integrated master’s degree in chemistry. My MChem project was focused on the synthesis and characterisation of a series of group 5 substituted Lindqvist-type polyoxometalates as a part of the Errington group. My research helped me to develop a strong interest in inorganic materials and their physical properties.

My passion for sustainable chemistry and research meant I was immediately drawn to the idea of pursuing a PhD and especially drew me to my project where I will be focused on the development of solid electrolytes using a combined in-Operando XPS theoretical approach. The focus of the project will be to further understand the dynamics of battery cells as well as furthering understanding of the role of interfaces within the cell through operational XPS studies and electrochemical studies.

I am very excited to be a part of the ReNU CDT programme as it is a fantastic opportunity for me to benefit from collaboration with my peers thorough my project where we all share a common goal of a more sustainable future.

Project Title – Development of solid electrolytes using a combined in-operando XPS-theoretical approach

Supervisor – Dr Elisabetta Arca, Dr James Dawson, Dr Karen Johnston

Mehvish Javed I am a highly accomplished material scientist and engineer, boasting a diverse academic background. I hold a master’s degree in physics with a research focus on material science from IUB Bahawalpur, Pakistan, and another master’s degree in Microelectronics and Communication Engineering from Northumbria University, where I graduated with distinction.

In the course of my academic journey, I conducted significant research in simulation-based studies of spinel oxides using Wein2k, exploring their physical, electronic, optical, and magnetic properties. This research added depth to my understanding of material science.

During my second master’s program, I delved into research on piezoelectric materials. This involved the creation of a pulse monitor system and a blood pressure monitoring system using ultrasound transducers, showcasing my practical applications of material science in the realm of healthcare technology.

Currently dedicated to pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, my cutting-edge research focuses on CZTS and perovskite materials, specifically in creating tandem structures for solar cells. This work continues to underscore my commitment to advancing the field of materials science and engineering.

Project Title – Thin film – perovskite tandem structures

Supervisor – Dr Vincent Barrioz