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Queen Mary student takes research to Parliament

Queen Mary postgraduate student Lei Tan attended parliament to present her research to politicians and scientific experts as part of the STEM for BRITAIN event.  

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Postgraduate student Lei Tan presenting at the STEM for Britain event
Postgraduate student Lei Tan presenting at the STEM for Britain event

The event, which took place on Monday 9 March, saw Lei’s work judged against dozens of other young scientists’ research in the only national competition of its kind. 

Lei, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, studies the structure and properties of ‘quantum dots’, tiny man-made particles that have both optical and electronic properties.  

Commenting on her experience, Lei said: "I feel fortunate and excited can be selected to present a poster at the STEM for Britain exhibition. I’d like to thank all three of my supervisors Professor Martin T. Dove, Dr Alston J. Misquitta and Dr Andrei Sapelkin, for their continuing help in my research and particularly Professor Dove, who supported my application for this event." 

Improving our understanding of quantum dots  

Lei’s research focuses on extremely small ‘magic-size’ clusters of quantum dots, which are already widely used in biomedical imaging, solar cells, and light emitting diodes. However, a lack of understanding around the properties of these structures has prevented them from reaching their full potential. 

So far, Lei’s work has begun to develop complete profiles of these clusters using a combination of experimental, theoretical and characterisation techniques, and has involved investigations using Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, and the UK National Supercomputing Service. 

Lei, said: "The structure of quantum dots and clusters at an atomic level is closely linked to their optimisation and real-world application, for example, in biomedical imaging and drug discovery. Despite the significant level of interest in these systems, the identification of their atomic structure is still a challenge.

"My work offers a unique approach to addressing this by combining experiment, characterisation and theory to develop a deep and complete understanding of these clusters. The experimental method used in my research, known as Pair distribution function method, has never been used in the structure identification of the magic-size clusters before." 


STEM for BRITAIN is a poster competition, which takes place in the House of Commons, involving approximately 180 early stage or early career researchers.  

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.  

"These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work."

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of Biology, Physiological Society, Council for the Mathematical Sciences, and the Nutrition Society. 

More information  

For media information, contact:

Sophie McLachlan
Faculty Communications Manager (Science and Engineering)
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