Leaving Certificate, St Kierans College Kilkenny | B.A (mod), Trinity College Dublin | PhD Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin
Bachelor in Arts (Moderatorship) [ It's a weird Trinity College thing] | Doctor in Philosophy, Chemistry [PhD] | Associate Member (AMRSC) - Royal Society of Chemistry
Computer Repair Shop, Woodies DIY, Freelance Videographer, Archaeological Digitizer, Hotel Porter, Verve Brand Ambassador, Physics Educator [ Trinity Walton Club]
Education and Public Engagement Officer / Postdoctoral Researcher
Internationally-Leading Research Centre
AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) is a Science Foundation Ireland funded centre that provides a partnership between leading researchers in materials science and industry. Materials science has been described as the science of stuff! We are researching materials that will transform everyday products of the future, from mobile phones to knee implants, batteries to beer bottles. AMBER brings together Ireland’s leading material science researchers working across the disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, Bioengineering and Medicine; with an international network of collaborators and companies.
The clustering of material science research expertise, state of the art infrastructure and a team of professional support staff has enhanced Ireland’s international reputation in materials science research and driven increased investment from industry. Ireland’s International ranking in the areas of nanoscience and materials science has increased from 6th and 8th respectively in 2013 when the Centre was established to 1st and 3rd in 2017. This ranking is based on publications and citations.
AMBER is jointly hosted in Trinity College Dublin by CRANN and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering, in collaboration with University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
Favourite thing to do in science: Discover new things
Hi! I'm Hugh! I'm a nano-materials researcher, and I organise outreach activities for the Advanced Materials and Bio Engineering Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin!
Hi! I’m Hugh! I like photography, sports, video-games, technology, food and traveling! I’m a nano materials researcher, I develop and organise outreach activities for the Advanced Materials and Bio Engineering Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin!
I research nanomaterials in the Advanced Materials and Bio Engineering Research (AMBER) Centre in Trinity College Dublin! Nanomaterials are things 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair!
It’s hard to imagine places we’ve never been to before. If I described a country to you, you may be able to imagine something based on places which are familiar to you. If I tried to describe the nanoscale to you, I may as well begin to describe an alien planet.
Imagine shrinking down to the width of a human hair, (a hair’s width varies, but for this example we’ll use 100 micrometres (μm) or 0.1 mm) congratulations, you’re halfway to the nanoscale. Shrink yourself again, by a factor of a thousand, you’re now 0.1 μm or 100 nanometres (nm).
Now, the type of nanomaterial you are, depends on what shape you are, if you’re a little sphere, block, or blob around 100 nm in all your dimensions you’re a zero-dimensional nanoparticle. If you’re flat and stretch out in your other two dimensions, like a sheet of paper, you’re a two-dimensional material, like graphene. However, if you happen to be one-dimensional, resembling a piece of uncooked spaghetti, you’re a nanowire, and I think you’re quite interesting.
I make measurements using electricity and light on lots of different types of nanowires, I look at single nanowires and then a whole bunch of nanowires called a network. A network is useful because it means we can make new types of materials and coat surfaces with a mesh of the nanowires, “It’s like throwing spaghetti at a plate” my Professor John J. Boland said, its actually a little more complicated. We spray the
spaghettinanowires onto the surface and let them randomly form a network. Depending on what material the nanowires are made out of, the network behaves in different and interesting ways.
Silver nanowires form networks which are great and conducting electricity, and so small that they let lots of light past, these are called Transparent Conductors and they’re a key component in displays, touch screens, solar cells, lighting and transparent heaters, we can spray our networks on plastic, whereas the materials we currently use behave like glass, this means we can make flexible versions the things I’ve just listed, making them cheaper and less likely to break when dropped!
My Typical Day
Depends on the day of the week! Either I'm making samples, measuring samples, analysing and plotting data or writing papers!
Being a researcher means you have a bit of flexibility in your working hours, which is nice, it means I usually begin work at 10 and finish at 6, or sometimes if I’m doing an experiment and getting good data I’ll stay much later! I live less than 2 km from the University which means I can easily walk to work, but most days I cycle!
I work in an office with lots of other PhD students and researchers, this means we all get to work together and ask each other questions if we’re having problems. It makes for a nice atmosphere and helps the research, lots of people means lots of different ideas!
We have group meetings every two weeks where each member of the group presents their research progress, and we get to have a discussion about the research.
What I'd do with the money
Bring nanoscience activities and demonstrations to primary and secondary schools and inspire students about the future!
I’m strongly involved with science outreach and public engagement, I enjoy explaining scientific and research concepts to a wide and varied audience.
I recently learned that the Leaving Certificate Engineering Special Topic this year is on ‘the basic principles and applications of Nano Technology’. I think this would be a perfect opportunity to bring nano-scientists (…people who research nanoscience, not nano-sized scientists…) into secondary schools and talk to students about STEM (that’s science,technology, engineering and maths) career options
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
A human being. I always consider myself as a human being. To me all human are the same. I dont discriminate people based on their education, caste, profession, community, race and religion. All are equal to me, and my research is for everyones benefit.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Lángos ,it's a Hungarian deep fried flat bread, usually topped with garlic sauce, meats and cheese
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Traveling around the world giving talks at scientific conferences!
What did you want to be after you left school?
Architect or graphic designer.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
What was your favourite subject at school?
Design and Communication Graphics
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Inspired curiosity in others, published a paper in the Nature journal.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Trinity College's transition year physics experience
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Computer Programmer, or professional gamer
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Be the best that I can be. Take care of my loved ones. Change the world for the better.
Tell us a joke.
Why can you never trust atoms? Because they make up everything!
Our Research Group
Some Photos of Our lab
Photo 1 left to right, Microscope, Electrical Probe station, Furnace.
Photo 2 left to right, Fume Hoods, Glove Box, Work bench with chemical cabinet above
Photo 3 left to right, Fume Hoods, Glove Box, Work bench with chemical cabinet above, sink and solvent bottles
Photo 4 left to right, Dark box electrical probe station, computer and electrical equipment above.
Photo 5 left to right, Electrical probe station, computer
Photo 6 left to right, Cryostat Low temperature electrical system, underneath Helium refrigeration system (blue) with vacuum pump (red) beside. White board for ideas!
Photo 7 left is a bottle of copper nanowires, right is a bottle of silver nanowires
Here I am Spraying some Nanowires onto piece of plastic with the AMBER logo on it!