UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


MAPS Faculty Postgraduate Prize Winners and Dean's Commendations Announced

15 February 2018

Many congratulations to Yao Lu, winner of the 2017 Faculty Postgraduate Research Prize, and to Oliver Gittus, winner of the 2017 Faculty Postgraduate Taught Prize.

Yao Lu and Oliver Gittus

The 2017 Postgraduate Research Prize was awarded to Yao Lu for his outstanding achievements in his PhD in Chemistry.

Yao Lu

Yao Lu's Research Supervisor and Head of UCL Chemistry, Professor Claire Carmalt, noted that:

"Yao is an outstanding young scientist who completed his PhD in materials chemistry with Professors Parkin and Carmalt in the Department of Chemistry. Yao Lu's PhD project investigated the design of robust self-cleaning surfaces via the development of superhydrophobic materials. Yao developed a facile method for making robust superhydrophobic and self-cleaning surfaces on both hard (metal or glass) and soft (cotton or paper) materials, which resulted in a recent publication in the top journal Science. The thought process that Yao Lu applied from start to finish of this innovative work gives a strong indication of his exceptional promise as a developing leader in the area of chemistry and nanotechnology. Yao already has a highly impressive track record with over 60 publications, including many high impact publications, 4 patents and an h-index of 18."

Professor Derek Tocher, Deputy Head of UCL Chemistry, said:

 "Yao Lu is an exceptional young scientist who already at this early stage of his career has had a significant impact in his chosen field of superhydrophobic surfaces. Through his deep understanding and the use of novel experimental methods he has solved a major problem relating to the low surface robustness of superhydrohpobic films allowing them to find application on both soft and hard materials. The results have been published in the top journal Science and attracted attention from international media. Over the course of his PhD Yao Lu published 33 articles and a patent and was the winner of the Bayer Open Science Start-up Pitch at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The innovation and drive displayed by Yao Lu mark him out as someone who can be expected to continue contributing to the advancement of science in the field of superhydrophobic surfaces into the future."

In his response to being awarded the prize, Yao Lu stated:

"I am deeply honored to receive the UCL MAPS Postgraduate Research Prize. This reminds me of happy times that I spent in Department of Chemistry during my PhD courses - fruitful discussions with my excellent supervisors, Friday drinks with my lovely colleagues and friends, failed and successful experiments, rejections and publications... It was really an enjoyable time to focus on my research. It is always fascinating to discover new things in research and I have been deeply attracted by superhydrophobic surfaces, which are inspired by the Lotus leaves in nature and are able to support water droplets in spherical shapes. I will carry on my research to discover more interesting things in nature and translate them into science."

Postgraduate Taught Prize

The 2017 Postgraduate Taught Prize was awarded to Oliver Gittus for his impressive work in his MRes Molecular Modelling and Materials Science during the last academic session.

Oliver Gittus

Oliver Gittus's programme coordinator Professor Zhimei Du noted that:

"Oliver obtained exceptionally high marks in his MRes degree- averaging 89%.  He has no mark below 85%, including a mark of 88% for a module taken outside his home department. He achieved an exceptional mark of 90% in his research project, which our external examiner considered as a very impressive report worth of an A+ mark and is written to a level of a more experienced PhD student". 

Professor Jochen Blumberger, Oliver Gittus's research advisor said:

"Oliver's research project focused on the calculation of acidity constants of different hematite surfaces in contact with liquid water using ab-initio (or first-principles) molecular dynamics simulation. These materials are of great interest due to their potential for water splitting. Oliver's calculations have helped gain a better understanding of their molecular structure. He excelled in carrying out a set of demanding numerical simulations on UK's high-performance computing facility in a relatively short period of time, and he made vital suggestions that greatly improved the analysis of the simulation data. His motivation and commitment to delivering high quality data was exemplary. A scientific paper with Oliver as first author is currently being prepared for publication."

In his response to being awarded the prize, Oliver Gittus stated:

"I was surprised and honoured to learn that I had received the prize: the MAPS faculty hosts a talented cohort of postgraduate students. Transitioning from a BSc to an MRes, the closer proximity to UCL's world-leading research reinvigorated my studies. My project used ab-initio molecular dynamics based free energy perturbation methods to investigate the acidity of the hematite-liquid water interface. I would like to thank Professor Jochen Blumberger, Dr Guido von Rudorff, and the entire Blumberger group for the privilege of sharing in their research, and the guidance provided thereafter. I am grateful to all those who make the M3S CDT possible, in particular Dr. Zhimei Du, Dr. David Scanlon and Dr. Scott Woodley, who have acted as my first points of contact within the CDT. I would like to thank my parents, Jan and Richard Gittus, for their continued support throughout my studies."

Dean's Commendations

Dean's Commendations were awarded to the following Postgraduate Research students:

Adam Coggins (UCL Chemistry)

Adam Townsend (UCL Mathematics)

Nadine Kalmoni (UCL Space & Climate Physics)

Dean's Commendations were awarded to the following Postgraduate Taught students:

Ahmed Al-Jawahiry (UCL Physics & Astronomy)

Samuel Burkart (UCL Statistical Science)