24 Apr 2012
During a sunny week in March 2012, I visited Hasselt, Belgium to attend the 17th International Diamond Workshop. Hasselt, a city reknowned for its delectable chocolates and the unique Jenever liquor, hosted a community of scientists interested in the frontier research within the field of diamond and carbon-based science.
With the financial support of the Sir Eric Rideal Travel Bursary, jointly offered by SCI and the RSC, I was able to attend, and deliver an oral presentation.
Whilst an exhaustive number of topics were discussed, the most exciting of them concerned the potential for diamond and graphene to be interfaced with biology, along with sessions regarding the surface chemistry of both of these materials. Research involving the surface functionalisation, bio-interfaces, bio-application, and electronic integration of these advanced materials are crucial to their technological use in biological environments.
It was an honour to be able to deliver a speech regarding some key research which I lead, within the group of Professor John Foord, at the University of Oxford with collaboration with researchers based at the Universities of Manchester and Cardiff. The presentation was entitled, 'An in situ QCM-D1 investigation of the adsorption of proteins at the nanodiamond-aqueous interface'.
Diamond is a biocompatible material which is being considered for usage in the human body and as platforms for cellular growth. Therefore there is a key need to explore the diamond-biological interface, and my research aimed to investigate the dynamics and physical properties of the adsorption of proteins onto diamond surfaces. It is hoped that the results of this research will inform users of diamond-based materials who may wish to expose their devices to biological environments.
I found the atmosphere to be welcoming and supportive of social interaction with fellow scientists. This encouraged the free discussion of our research and made the sharing of ideas easier, even for young researchers like myself. I was impressed by the size and international dimension of a conference which was originally founded as a small, European workshop. It was clear to me that it has now become an important and popular venue for the gathering of diamond researchers from all corners of the globe.
One of my motivations for studying in the UK was its proximity to Europe, and the potential to explore new cultures. In Belgium, thanks to the location of the conference and to a family friend, I was able to sample the delights of Belgian chocolates, Belgian beer, the Flemish culture, and the historical, and beautiful, countryside of Flanders.
The academic dimension continued with a visit to the university city of Leuven, whilst my interest in European politics and the EU was satisfied by a fabulous tour of Brussels. In my time in Hasselt, and the rest of Belgium, I was able to better appreciate the central role Belgium has played in European history and culture.
It is with sincere appreciation that I thank SCI, the RSC and Hertford College (Oxford) for their financial assistance. These three organisations have a strong history of supporting the work of young scientists and they should take pride in the accomplishments of those they support.
The opportunity, in these closing months of my doctorate, to make a public and professional contribution to my field, with the added advantage of discovering a different country, is priceless.
Geoffrey W Nelson
University of Oxford
1Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation: essentially, a sensitive mass balance which is simultaneously able to probe the visco-elastic properties of 'soft layers' (ie proteins) by monitoring energy losses at surfaces. For more information, please see the website of the manufacturer of our QCM-D apparatus: www.qsense.com