A meeting place for future materials researchers
The neglected doctoral student, sitting alone in a cubicle and scraping by on benefits, will soon be consigned to history. At Linköping University the majority of the research students have a safe haven at a research school. Agora Materiae is the latest addition.
Agora is Greek for square or meeting place, and Materiae is just what it sounds like. Materials science is one of the Linköping University’s (LiU) leading fields of research so why wasn’t this place created a long time ago?
“In order to start and run a research school you need a financial guarantor with long-term capacity and we haven’t had that before. Now this project has been made possible by the government selecting AFM, Advanced Functional Materials, as a strategic field of research with long-term funding,” says Per Olof Holtz (pictured), professor and administrator of the research school.
To support him in his role as a leader, Holtz has formed a student council, modelled after Forum Scientium, the research school for life sciences that recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
Linda Karlsson and Roger Magnusson are part of the group of five doctoral students who, for one year, will form the council.
“We will function as a link between the students and the decision makers,” says Roger Magnusson, doctoral student at Applied Optics.
He works with optical characterisation of what are known as metamaterials, whose properties are not gained from their constituent elements, but from their microstructure. Magnusson’s project is an example of pure basic research, but the school covers a broad spectrum from basic to applied research, from theory to experiment.
“I am somewhere in between,” says Linda Karlsson who is studying the growth of semi-amorphous carbon films at Thin Film Physics. For her project she will use LiU’s new darling: Arwen, a transmission electron microscope in which you can examine materials down to the tiniest detail – half an angstrom.
In its first term Agora Materiae has already swelled to include around 30 members in various phases of their postgraduate education. The school doesn’t have any particular admission periods and will grow as new doctoral students are hired at the institutions, primarily:
- The Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) Linköping
- Department of Management and Engineering (IEI) Linköping
- Department of Science and Technology (ITN) Norrköping
One linchpin is the joint seminar, which takes place every four weeks with three or four presentations each time and is only open to doctoral students. When senior researchers are absent, everyone dares to ask questions and join in discussions. Everyone in the audience takes part in assessing the presentation. Less than half of the Agora Materiae members speak Swedish, so the natural working language is English.
The package also includes an annual summer conference, the first of which will take place on 20-22 August at Söderköpings Brunn, and one study tour per term. In June they will head for Oskarshamn, and OKG’s nuclear power plants, the CLAB interim storage facility and the research tunnel on the island of Äspö.
In the pictures above Roger Magnusson inspects the Arwen electron microscope, guided by fellow doctoral student Linda Karlsson.
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Last updated: 2013-06-04