EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training
in Molecular-Scale Engineering
a Centre for Nanotechnology
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Stephen Jackson


At Undergraduate I achieved a first class MPhys degree at the University of Manchester, the masters project involved studying the optical properties of bent-core liquid crystals with changing temperature.

Why I chose to study in the CDT in Molecular-Scale Engineering
For me the main attraction of a CDT over a traditional PhD is that you get a lot more time to choose and make a much more informed decision. Instead of choosing a project based on a 10 min chat with your potential supervisor you experience what working on the project is like beforehand, you also get to experience multiple different projects so you can decide which of them you like best.

Current research
I am currently most of the way though my first rotation. It involves fabricating nanocavities in photonic crystals and testing how their optical properties change as different molecules bind to the surface; these would have eventual use as sensor devices.  The second rotation will be probing the structure of water layers around molecules using Atomic Force Microscopy; and my final rotation involves the fabrication of reporter nanowires. The first two rotations are in the department of Physics at the University of Sheffield, whereas the last is shared jointly between the departments of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Leeds.

Prior to this course I had very wrong notation of the boundaries between subjects, with for example the idea that chemistry was just about reacting different molecules together. I have since seen that there is a lot of overlap between subjects, and its useful to bring the viewpoints of different fields to the same problem. I’ve also found it very enjoyable to learn about different areas of science that I would not have otherwise be able to.

Being a CDT means that this field has been singled out as being something that is growing and that industry needs more doctorial graduates in and so at the end our job prospects should be very good, that’s the hope anyway. Regardless science PhDs show employers that you are smart, organized and skilled with computers and technology; this program also shows adaptability and a larger breadth of knowledge.

Most enjoyable aspects
The most enjoyable part so far has simply been the other people on the course; it’s a group of like-minded people, all in the same boat who you spend a lot of time with. Also great is that you get to learn and experience such a wide range of different things within science. One of the most challenging things about the course is the workload, which is more than I was used to at undergraduate, but then I guess that was to be