Together Tyndall celebrates the winners and finalists of the 2020 Postgraduate Publication of the Year.
Despite a challenging a year, our students achieved outstanding discoveries and results as part of their PhD projects, some even opening major new possibilities in their field.
Dr. Fatima Gunning, Senior Staff Researcher & Head of Graduate Studies at Tyndall, praised the entries, saying: “This year we had twice as many submissions for the Postgraduate Research Publication of Year. Besides lockdowns and restricted access to labs, our students excelled in their research outcomes. We also noted a number of students with exceptional publications at very early stages in their PhDs, and we couldn’t let this pass in blank, so we created a new award - the Rising Talent Award. Congratulations to all!"
“First principles study of reactions in alucone growth: the role of the organic precursor.”
1. What encouraged you to submit your application to the 2020 Postgraduate Research Publication of the Year?
This was the first paper I published in my PhD and it has been an important contribution in the growing field of hybrid materials. I was very happy with this work and thought that the Postgraduate Research Publication competition would be a great opportunity to share it with other researchers in Tyndall.
2. What inspired you to choose the subject of your paper?
Firstly, I was driven by my role within MSCA ITN HYCOAT network which aims to deliver work on multi scale simulation of hybrid inorganic-organic films and to enhance the understanding of the effect of different aspects of the molecular layer deposition (MLD) process.
In addition, there was insufficient understanding of the atomistic mechanism of MLD film growth. The need to explore and understand the growth process of hybrid films at the molecular level and to support experimental data on hybrid films was the motivation behind my work.
3. What’s your paper about and how did you prepare for it? What role did research excellence play in your approach?
This paper presents a first principles investigation of the detailed mechanism of the growth of hybrid organic-inorganic thin films of aluminium alkoxides, known as “alucones” deposited by molecular layer deposition (MLD). This process is based on trimethylaluminum and various organic alcohols. We investigated the interactions between trimethylaluminum and different diols that differ by the length of chain. This allowed us to examine the influence of the diol chain length on the interaction between precursors as well as the preferred orientation of the organic species. Also, a detailed comparison with alucones grown with ethylene glycol (EG) and glycerol (GL) is presented to assist the interpretation of experimental findings regarding the differences in the hybrid films grown by ethylene glycol and glycerol. The literature review process was essential when preparing for this paper. It helped me identify gaps and the open questions in my research field.
4. The selection for Research Publication of the Year is extremely competitive. What is your advice for those aspiring for nomination next year?
A published paper is already a great achievement. My advice would be to have courage and apply to this competition as it is a great opportunity to promote your research work.
5. What is the single most significant support Tyndall has been able to offer you in achieving your research goals?
I received a lot of support and encouragement in my research thanks to my supervisor Professor Michael Nolan, Principal Scientist at Tyndall National Institute and Professor of Nanomaterials Modelling NIBEC, Ulster University. Tyndall has given me the opportunity to collaborate with many universities/institutes outside of Ireland and this has expanded the scope of my research and enhanced my knowledge.
Arbresha Muriqi and Michael Nolan, “First principles study of reactions in alucone growth: the role of the organic precursor”, Dalton Trans., 2020,49, 8710-8721