PhD student reaches final of SET for BRITAIN 2016

A PhD student in the School of Physics and Astronomy has been chosen to present his research at the House of Commons as a finalist in the highly competitive SET for BRITAIN 2016 competition. Flaviu Cipcigan, a PhD student jointly funded by the University of Edinburgh and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), will present his research, “A model of the water molecule using electrons on a spring”, at Westminster on Monday 7th March 2016.

Flaviu’s research concerns the creation of a new method to accurately and efficiently calculate intermolecular forces using ‘electrons on a spring’ – quantum Drude oscillators. These are model oscillators that behave according to laws of molecular mechanics within a force field, and can thus be used to simulate models of electronic polarizability. His work is crucial to advancing our ability to use computer simulations to design molecules with specific intended functions. This work is directly applicable to a number of important fields, such as drug design and the creation of new materials for energy storage.

Flaviu and his team utilised the technology to create a broad, but predictive model for water, and in doing so advanced our understanding of this vital substance. He and his team discovered the reasons for one of water’s most interesting properties – its unusually high surface tension. The work of Flaviu and his team discovered previously unrecorded structural motifs within the molecule which are thought to be responsible for this property. His PhD work is as a result of a joint collaboration between NPL (Vlad Sokhan and Jason Crain) and IBM (Glenn Martyna).

Flaviu has been shortlisted from hundreds of other applicants to the SET for BRITAIN 2016 competition, a national poster competition for early-career scientists across all major scientific disciplines. The competition gives early-stage and early-career researchers the chance to present their research and win a prize of up to £3,000. Gold medal winners in all the categories will be chosen after the presentation at the House of Commons. It also allows these researchers to engage with a number of Parliamentarians, and raise the profile of their research, their institutions, and themselves.

This is an excellent opportunity for Flaviu and we wish him all the best in the final.