Life of a postgrad research student


Welcome to my blog posts, I’m Richard Dawidek, a first year postgraduate researcher in the Sheffield Centre for Advanced Magnetic Materials and Devices (SCAMMD). I may be new to the postgraduate side of life in the department but when it comes to Sheffield University I’m a bit of an old hand, having done my undergraduate degree here.

With 4 years of experience to my name already, I’m well placed to tell you the best pint is at the Hallamshire House, the best night out is at Leadmill followed by the Broomhill Friery and the best department is Materials Science and Engineering!

I started my PhD in October this year, and though things have started off slow, with lots of background reading I hope to be able to share lots of exciting results with you in the months to come. My research is investigating the use of tightly focussed light (from a laser!) to investigate magnetic nanopatterns. Nanopatterns such as these:


*Property variation with shape in magnetic nanoelements, Cowburn RP (2000)

These are circles of NiFeMo that are just 60nm in diameter. The researches that produced this sample were only able to use a laser that covered all of these dots. My plan is to analyse them one by one using the departments tightly focussed laser system. Hopefully from this we’ll be able to be the first group to understand magnetic phenomenon in individual nanostructures.

Why Postgraduate Research?
What made me choose to undertake a PhD? This is an important question all potential PGR students must consider, 3 more years at university is a big undertaking. I decided to stay on after really enjoying my final year project and the progress made. In the project, I was obtaining hysteresis loops for a single crystal ferroelectric material by modifying the focussed light technique used to characterise magnetic materials. This success could just be the beginning of a raft of new discoveries about ferroelectric behaviour that would not be obtainable with conventional methods. My current plan is to adapt the tightly focussed system for magnets in a similar way later on. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Department Life
Being able to stay in the department was a factor that made the decision to do a PhD even easier. In my undergraduate degree, I started off as a shy – level student with a rough idea of what aspect of MSE I would end up in. I ended up as a confident, well rounded engineer/scientist with plenty of new skills, experiences and friendships and an excellent knowledge base of a variety of materials topics to draw upon in my later life.

Some of the highlights include my third year placement, fourth year industrial project with Rolls Royce, and my project. I’ll probably go into detail on a few of these in another post. I found them to be the best aspects of the course, and the greatest assets that Sheffield MSE students come out with.

That’s all for now, a quick introduction. All the best if you’re a potential applicant reading this, if you choose to come to Sheffield I can guarantee it will be the best decision of your life!

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