Matilda Rhodes
24 Aug 2022



From Industrial Placement to ISIS Facility Development PhD student.


Matilda at diamond cropped.jpgMatilda came to ISIS for her industrial placement year as part of a Chemistry Masters at the University of Southampton. She was part of the team in the Materials Characterisation Lab, developing techniques for investigating the magnetic properties of thin films at different conditions. Working with many different techniques, characterising samples for users and getting to grips with science investigation, her year with ISIS led her onto the academic path she is now strolling down.

“I enjoyed my project and researching, which I hadn't previously thought of pursuing. It made me realise, that I could do a PhD." -Matilda

Her placement allowed Matilda to know what life as a PhD student was like. Able to view and take on the habits of professionals, gaining valuable experience. All of which proved helpful for her application to what was quite a competitive role. Then, just two months after completing her masters, Matilda entered her part-ISIS-funded PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

She is now a year into her project, researching Lithium Ores. This involves exploring a variety of techniques for characterisation, discovering their properties under different conditions and using many of the skills she would have used in the ISIS lab.

Her project is linked to the government plan from COP26, to have 100% Zero Emissions from all cars and vans by 2035. To help achieve this, the UK hopes to be self-sufficient in making lithium-ion batteries, meaning we need to find ways of efficiently extracting high grade Lithium from domestic ores for use in battery technology.  

Lithium is notoriously difficult to study and so the techniques currently available are of varied efficiency. Matilda is hoping to prove that using neutrons and muons is a more desirable technique than the lab-based ones. She described “the variety of different techniques I get to use, each with their own pros and cons for looking at a sample" as her favourite part of the project, something carried over from her placement year. “I also enjoy the many different people I work with. From the people here at Edinburgh, to the ISIS muon group, as well as the natural history museum (who provide natural samples for study). It means I get to work with, chemists, physicists, and geo-scientists!"

Since moving to Edinburgh Matilda has truly engrossed herself into her Scottish surroundings, taking hiking trails and getting involved in sport, joining a rugby team and dabbling in korfball.  She also spoke of the vast culture and artistic side to Edinburgh, “You don't get bored very easily up here." As a PhD student she also works closely with undergraduates during their labs, forwarding the next generation and making sure they don't spill chemicals on their feet. Unsure of what the future will bring her Matilda is grateful for finding a project to delve into in the area she became hooked on during her year in industry.

If you're interested in a PhD part-funded by ISIS, then take a look at our studentships that are open for applications. If you're an academic who would like to co-sponsor a student on this scheme, then the call for proposals is open until 14 September. 

Contact: Burke, Katie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)