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Group Members

Dr Helen Willcock - Senior Lecturer in Polymer Science

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Helen joined the Department of Materials in 2015 as a Lecturer in Polymer Science, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2020. Her research is focused on tuning the properties of polymers by controlling their architecture and morphology, with a particular focus on stimuli responsive materials for biomedical, sensing and imaging. Helen completed her Master's degree in Chemistry at the University of Liverpool in 2003 and after a brief period working in a chemical catalogue company, returned to Liverpool to obtain her PhD in 2008, studying the control of the solution properties of dendrimers by varying surface functionality, under the supervision of Professor Steve Rannard and Professor Andy Cooper. She then undertook a short Post-Doctoral position with Unilever studying the incorporation of fluorescent tags into dendronised polymers as probes for porous media. She moved to the University of Warwick in 2009 to work as a Research Fellow with Professor Rachel O'Reilly and worked on projects including the control of end group functionality and the synthesis of polymer particles using RAFT polymerisation. She was funded by BP for 4 years working on Project Pelican, a patented technology for use in enhanced oil recovery.

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PhD Students

Ollie Scaife (2015-2018)

Ollie Scaife is a British PhD student born in Norwich, Norfolk in 1992. Ollie graduated in 2015 with a combined Bachelor's and Master's degree (Mchem) in chemistry from Loughborough University. Throughout his degree, Ollie specialised in Inorganic and physical chemistry as well as radiochemistry. During his Masters he researched fluorescent naphthalimide tertiary phosphine ligands and their transition metal complexes, with a view to making tuneable fluorescent probes. Development of fluorescent chelation ligands for Pt(II) ions. This research was conducted with Dr Martin Smith, a very knowledgeable phosphine chemist. Ollie started his PhD with the Materials Department at Loughborough University in October 2015, under the supervision of Dr Helen Willcock and Dr Elisa Mele. The project focus is on the development of stimuli responsive aqueous supramolecular polymers and their ability to form hydrogels.

Edrea Phua (2017-2021)

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Edrea was born in Singapore, where she studied for a Diploma in Materials Science at Singapore Polytechnic. She was also attached for a 6 weeks industrial program at Ngai Hing Hong Co Ltd in Shanghai. Her final year project was on the development of conductive polymer, studying the resistivity of the polymer with the addition of carbon fibre to polypropylene (PP) and polyamide (PA) with Mr Nee Pai How. She was also part of the student committee and helped to organise social events for the course. She also studied music and played golf. Edrea attended Loughborough University to do her BEng in Materials Engineering. She also represented the university as part of the United Kingdom Singapore Student’s Council. Her BEng project was on the development of biomimetic ceramics where she studied the interactions between nanoparticles and bacteriophages with Dr Houzheng Wu and Dr Tao Sun. She is currently in her third year of PhD at Loughborough University where she is working on the development of transparent nanocomposites for protection with use of bacteriophages.

Mitra Soorani (2017-2021)

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Mitra is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary researcher. After a first BSc degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Keele, she completed a Master degree in Bioengineering at the Institute for Science & Technology in Medicine (ISTM) in the same university. She developed a closed system by which mechanical and suction devices can be tested effectively and the details were published in the Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery. Later, she joined Nottingham University in 2015, to undertake a MPhil research project on the computer aided design and fabrication of micro-scaled photoacoustic transducer using picosecond laser. During her research, Mitra presented her work at various national and international conferences, among which she won RECENDT award for the best paper from LU2016 conference (second place), Linz- Austria in 2016.

In January 2018, she joined the Department of Materials at Loughborough University as a PhD student in the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Regenerative Medicine. Her research involves designing, processing, fabrication, characterization, and functionalization of biomaterials using computational tools to develop novel three-dimensional (3D) porous scaffolds for Tissue Engineering. Her primary research interests lie on the interface between computer science, physical modelling, physics, chemistry, and biology. Mitra is a fine art painter as well as a researcher and sometimes donates her artworks to animal charities.

Tom Baker (2017-2021)

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Thomas BAKER is a PhD student at Loughborough University, born in the south of England in 1993. Prior to his research, Thomas completed his MEng at Loughborough University in 2017, graduating first class with honours. He also received a Diploma in Industrial Studies for his industrial sandwich year at LKAB Minerals from 2014-2015. During his time at LKAB Minerals he worked within the R&D team to optimise the coatings and efficiency of proprietary fire retardants for cable and sheathing applications. Through his studies, Thomas directed himself towards projects towards polymer composites, sustainability, and mechanical enhancement. He completed dissertation projects under the titles of: “Improvement of Toughness of Polystyrene with Nanoparticles” and “Review of PVC Phthalate Plasticisers Alternatives and Effects on Human Health”. Thomas started his PhD in July of 2017, under the supervision of Dr. Helen Willcock and Dr. Elisa Mele. His project is titled “Supramolecular Interactions on Nanocrystals (e.g. cellulose) to Improve Mechanical Properties of Polymers”. This will focus on developing and characterising a sustainable plastics future, using natural/renewable materials, to replace those used in current applications that are derived from non-renewable sources.

Jordan Roe (2017-2021)

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Jordan Roe is a British PhD student born in Handsworth, Sheffield, in 1995. Jordan completed his Bachelor degree in Biology at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 2017. During his studies, Jordan gained experience in molecular microbiology through a summer internship (2015) focusing on bacterial plasmid editing, and was awarded the ‘Undergraduate microbiology prize (2015)’ by the Society For Applied Microbiology (SFAM) for his research on rat gut micro-flora. Jordan also undertook a placement year during his studies, where he worked under Professor Christine Le Maitre (SHU) on using auxetic materials for bladder tissue engineering. This project led to further research in his final year, on the use of auxetic scaffolds combined with hydrogels for intervertebral disc (IVD) repair. Jordan moved to Loughborough University in late 2017, to begin his research into novel smart materials for neural tissue engineering, specifically the use of magnet nanoparticle-laced hydrogels as controllable 3D  cell scaffolds.

James Tinkler (2018-2022)

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James graduated from Loughborough University in 2018 with a Masters degree in Materials Engineering. During this time he completed a research project sponsored by BP on the production of stimuli-responsive membranes for water/oil separation James is now undertaking a PhD at Loughborough under the supervision of Dr Helen Willcock and Dr Ignacio Martín-Fabiani. He is studying self-assembly of colloidal latex films, focusing specifically on the addition of silica nanoparticles modified with stimuli-responsive polymers. The aim of the project is to produce self-cleaning coatings with imrpoved mechanical properties through a single-step environmentally freindly process.

Caty Marsden (2019-2023)

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Caty was born in Preston, Lancashire, and studied for an MChem at Lancaster University, with a year studying abroad at Queensland University of Technology. For her Master's project, Caty worked with Dr Nick Fletcher, developing tethered ligands, in an attempt to demonstrate control of stereochemistry in tris heteroleptic ruthenium(II) complexes. During her time at Lancaster she enjoyed rowing for the university, and also carried out two summer internships with Dr John Hardy and Dr Michael Coogan. Caty recently moved to Loughborough University to begin her PhD concerned with the development of macromolecular MRI contrast agents.

Master's Students

Chunxiao Zhang

Ruijia Song

Bachelor's Students

Guy Ingram-Hardwick

Andrew Egles

Farah Ibrahim

Hawa Botan

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