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Rideal Travel Bursary recipient, Huda Al Salem, reports on her research visit

Huda Al Salam

20 May 2019

Huda Al Salem was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary for a research visit to the University of Buffalo, USA. Here, she tells us about how she was able to expand the scope of her work benefitting her research and own personal development as well as establishing new collaborations.

‘My name is Huda Al Salem, and I am a final year PhD student at the University of Manchester working with Dr. Sven Koehler (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Prof. Andrew Horn (University of Manchester).

‘My PhD project is concerned with the non-linear laser spectroscopy of modified graphene. These graphene derivatives, which we synthesise in our lab, can have a certain functionality (sensors, hydrogen storage,…) or have a band gap due to the introduction of hetero-atoms. The non-linear laser-spectroscopic technique of vibrational sum-frequency generation (VSFG) spectroscopy is incredibly useful to characterise these functionalised graphene derivatives as it is extremely sensitive, important when working with only one monolayer, and surface selective, which graphene inherently is. We spectroscopically characterised these functional groups on graphene, determined their coverage and even their orientation.

‘In the summer of 2018, I attended the Gordon Conference on Vibrational Spectroscopy at the University of New England. At this Gordon conference, I started discussions with Prof. Luis Velarde from Buffalo University, NY, who is successfully running a SFG setup in his own laboratory and one of the few groups worldwide with the ability to perform hetero-dyne SFG experiments.

‘Since the heterodyne-SFG capability is a feature that would allow us to correlate our SFG signatures directly with the coverage, Prof. Velarde invited me to his lab in January/February 2019. Buffalo is not known for its warm climate in January/February, but I arrived during one of the coldest spells in years such that the University had to be closed for two days. At least I got to see the Niagara Falls, partially frozen!! We caught up those lost days over the weekend, and I had the chance to expand the scope of my work from traditional SFG experiments to heterodyne-SFG detection, which will be tremendously useful as it will allow us to linearly correlate SFG signal intensities with e.g. coverage and even the band gap, one of the major aims of my project.

‘This visit benefitted my research project and my own personal development enormously, established new collaborations between the Velarde and the Koehler group, and I am already in the process of writing up the results from my visit in a couple of paper manuscripts.

‘I would like to express my sincere thanks to the SCI-RSC Sir Eric Rideal Trust for the financial contribution I received to cover part of the expenses of this research visit.‘

Huda Al Salem
PhD student
University of Manchester

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