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BNERC: Special Interview - Episode 1007

Special Interview
  Ms Karwei So, University of Oxford, U.K.

Episode 1007
Ms Karwei So
University of Oxford, U.K.

Ms Karwei So and Prof Toru Maekawa
Ms Karwei So and Prof Toru Maekawa

A research proposal made by Ms Karwei So; PhD candidate of the University of Oxford, was accepted by the British Council and she carried out collaborative research on “Synthesis of novel carbon nano structures and materials” at the Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre from 16th June to 18th August 2015 as part of “JSPS Summer Programme 2015”.

Several advanced results having been obtained, the Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre and the Materials Science Group at the University of Oxford agreed to initiate collaborative studies focusing on the following subjects;

1.  Synthesis of magnetic buckypaper

2.  Functionalisation of magnetic buckypaper with biomolecules for capturing target molecules and cells

3.  Manipulation of magnetic carbon nano structures and materials (development of nano robotics)

Please introduce yourself and your university.

KimonoMy name is Karwei So and I am a second year doctoral student in the Materials Science department at Oxford University. My D.Phil is a three and half year project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). I belong to the Nanomaterials by Design group, headed by Professor Nicole Grobert, my supervisor. I am co-supervised by Doctor Frank Dillon. Prior to my D.Phil, I studied for my undergraduate degree, a combined Masters, at the University of Durham. I studied Chemistry and it was my fourth year project in Crystallography that led to my interest in research on the atomic level.

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the UK, although the exact founding date is unknown. There is, however, evidence of teaching dating as far back as 1096. It is one of the few universities to have a collegiate system, along with University of Durham, and our rivals, University of Cambridge. There are a total of 38 colleges in Oxford and I belong to Wolfson College, which is a postgraduate only college. The key difference between the colleges and the halls of residence at other universities is that the colleges are self-governing; they have control over their own membership, internal structure and activities. Additionally, colleges have an active role in teaching for the undergraduates, with tutorials taking place at college.

What is your recent research topic? 

My current research project focuses on the production of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) filled with magnetic metals. There has been a lot of work on CNTs over the years, however the magnetic filling adds a new dimension to these materials. It is the magnetic filling that I believe makes my research exciting as it provides an additional parameter to be controlled and exploited. For instance, the magnetic filling allows for the CNT to be easily manipulated using an external magnetic field. Many applications for these materials can be envisioned, ranging from cancer treatment via hyperthermia, through to data storage.

What inspired you to become a scientist?

From an early age, I have always been inquisitive, with a particularly strong interest in understanding in how and why things behave as they do. This naturally developed into a strong interest in science, particularly in Chemistry. During my undergraduate, I developed a passion for research, which ultimately led me to my position as a D.Phil student. Nanotechnology, though a relatively young research area, has the potential to revolutionise technology, as we know it. The ability to control matter on such a small scale is very exciting to me and I am thrilled to be working on such cutting-edge science.

You were selected as a research fellow of JSPS Summer Programme and have spent 2 month in Japan. How has your life at BNERC and in Japan been?

I am very thankful to the JSPS and the British Council for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to work in BNERC and experience life in Japan. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here; everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. I have made new friends, fond memories and new discoveries during my time at BNERC, my only regret is that I couldn’t stay for longer! My time in Japan has been fantastic and I will never forget my time there. I am lucky to have met so many inspirational people, who helped me develop new ideas. I look forward to continuing to work with you all.

You presented your research at the international symposium held by the Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre and Graduate School of Interdisciplinary New Science, Toyo University in 2014. Please tell us about it.

SymposiumI attended the BNERC international symposium in November 2014. This was my first time travelling to Japan and visiting BNERC. I presented my work from my first year on optimising the synthesis parameters to produce Fe-filled CNTs in both high quality and quantity. During my time at the symposium, I was impressed by the facilities available at BNERC; they had all the equipment I would need to carry out my work. This, alongside the impressive talks given by people from BNERC, inspired me to come to BNERC to conduct research.

What are your dreams and goals regarding future research?

First and foremost, I aim to continue the collaboration that was set up with BNERC over the summer. The work conducted was really interesting and I look forward to seeing what the final results will be. Back in Oxford, I will investigate different metal fillings for my CNTs and work on further improvements to the properties of the CNTs that I produce. I would like to continue research on the cell cytotoxicity of CNTs as well as seek out further applications for which my materials are suitable. With regards to after my D.Phil, I cannot see into the future but I know for sure that I will continue to work on pushing the boundaries of science!