International prize won by School Research Fellow

Dr. Olga Degtyareva
Dr. Olga Degtyareva

The 2010 European High Pressure Research Group (EHPRG) Award has been won by Dr Olga Degtyareva, a Fellow of the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (ICMCS), the Extreme Conditions Physics group at the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions.

Dr Degtyareva was presented with the award of €500 and delivered a plenary talk at the 48th EHPRG meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, in July 2010.

She said: "I am very pleased to receive this recognition, which is such a prestigious award in the field of high-pressure research. I very much enjoyed giving the plenary lecture. It was very well received, with lots of questions from the audience at the end of the presentation."

The award recognises Olga’s contribution to the study of pressure-induced complexity in simple elements. Her work spans 10 years, starting with PhD studies under the supervision of Malcolm McMahon and Richard Nelmes. It continued with a Carnegie Fellowship and a post-doctoral position at the Geophysical Laboratory in USA where Olga worked in the high-pressure group of Rus Hemley and Dave Mao and started her productive collaboration with Eugene Gregoryanz, now reader in CSEC.

Returning to the University of Edinburgh in 2006 as a postdoc, Olga received a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship to continue her work on complex high-pressure phases of elements. This Fellowship has allowed her to combine work with caring for two children.

Olga’s research has resulted in numerous publications, including five in Physical Review Letters and two in Nature Materials. It will also appear as a review in the next issue of the journal High Pressure Research.

Discussing the benefits of the award, Olga said: "It was very timely as the preparation for the lecture allowed me to take a fresh look at the systematics of the high-pressure behaviour of elements that will constitute the core of the review due to be published next month".

The image below shows one of the discoveries made by Olga and her co-workers. The crownlike eight-member ring molecules of sulphur (S-I, blue) break apart under pressure to form chains (S-II). At higher pressure, they rearrange themselves into denser chains forming the S-III phase, the crystal structure of which was uncovered in Olga’s work.