The Addison Wheeler Fellowships

Oct 3, 2023 | Events, Fellows, Transformations (Issue 10)

The Addison Wheeler Fellowships

The Addison Wheeler Fellowships (AWFs) are designed to provide early career researchers of outstanding promise with three years to pursue original and ambitious research, free from teaching and administrative responsibilities. Successful appointees pursue research of their own design, undertaken in collaboration with Durham University scholars and mentors. AWFs are funded through the bequest of Addison James Wheeler to encourage ‘efforts for increased knowledge of people and their make-up so as to enable them to make better use of their life here on Earth’. Recruitment of fellows takes place approximately every three years and is organised under the aegis of the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). The AWF scheme continues to make a strong contribution in progressing the careers of ECRs across the university.

The research undertaken by fellows aligns closely with their host departmental strategic priorities, developments and objectives, as well as departmental research strengths, including in interdisciplinary research, and multi-disciplinary collaboration and research at Durham. The AWFs also contribute to the national and international reputation of Durham University as a whole. Previous appointees have gone on to have stellar academic careers, at Durham and elsewhere. Many AWFs have gone on to permanent academic positions at Durham, including several current professors, current and former Heads of Department and of Faculty (e.g., Professor Chris Greenwell (current Head of the Department of Chemistry).

For further details of former fellows see: Addison Wheeler Fellows | IAS Durham.

Three early career researchers will take up AWFs this academic year, and we are pleased to welcome the first of those three: Dr Miro Cafolla (Physics).

Dr Cafolla, a qualified Doctor of Medicine, undertook and was awarded a first-class masters’ degree in Physics in 2016, followed by a PhD in Physics in 2020 from Durham. He is highly regarded as an early career scholar of significant potential, and has already published in several high-quality and top-ranked journals.   He has recently published a paper in IOP Nanotechnology, a prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal. Dr Cafolla, who is both the first and corresponding author of the publication, has developed with his collaborators a new method to quantitatively study materials at the nanoscale obtaining simultaneous information on their elasticity and on their repulsive and attraction properties when in contact with another material. The beauty of the method lies also in being easy to implement within standard machines and allowing analysis of a wide range of different materials, from stiff metals to soft polymers and biological membranes. This will help Dr Cafolla’s research, as well as  researchers all over the world. He is grateful to the IAS for its generous support which has been acknowledged within the paper.

During his Fellowship, Dr Cafolla will work on a specific research project entitled DAME – Developing Advanced Materials for Energy Applications, which will contribute to addressing the need to develop new advanced materials for electronic energy applications known as multiferroic perovskite oxides (MPOs). This research is significant as the Ukraine crisis and climatic disturbances have highlighted the need of energy efficiency for financial and environmental sustainability. DAME- Developing Advanced Materials for Energy applications. MPOs have attracted great interest for their potential to engineer cost efficient, environmentally friendly data storage devices for quantum computing. With 20% of current electric consumption due to cloud data, MPOs-based quantum computing can be a gamechanger with savings of ca. 3% of GDP. The use of MPOs in real-life devices is however hindered by their aging in normal operational conditions due to a loss of oxygen. Oxygen loss has however been suggested to enhance MPOs properties if propagated in the material in a controlled way; but to date experimental methods have failed to implement this in real-life devices. DAME will use a novel approach locally manipulating oxygens and studying their dynamics and impact on MPOs performance. DAME will use this new knowledge to develop pioneering data storage concepts based on nano-scale controlling oxygen groups. This will enable a new shift in the engineering of quantum computing.

This year, on 18 October at 4pm in the Calman Learning Centre, we celebrate more than 50 years of this endowed Fellowship with a talk from Professor Richard Morris CBE FRS FRSE, who was one of the very early recipients of an Addison Wheeler Fellowship. To book a place please sign up here.

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