Dr Evelina Liarou has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship for her project "Visualizing the Genesis of Soft Matter. Atomic and Molecular Level Imaging of Polymer Dynamics and (De)Polymerization Mechanisms". Hear her story and the way ahead for her research
Since 2014, when I started my master’s studies in Greece, I have been investigating polymers. During my PhD, I started exploring them using microscopy, initially on a basic level. Eventually, as I was delving more into the mechanistic aspects of polymerizations, as well as electron microscopy, I realized that many macromolecular characteristics are just theoretical, or even imaginary. Therefore, I decided to give visual perception on the creation and behaviour of what is conventionally called “soft matter”.
My research aim is to visualize chemical reactions related to macromolecules at atomic level. This includes the formation of macromolecules and/or polymers, along with their evolution, behaviour and deconstruction. My personal aim is a professorship by the end of my Leverhulme ECF, because this research theme requires a big interdisciplinary team in order to be explored rapidly.
My research is highly interdisciplinary since it requires a strong polymer chemistry background, a good understanding of physical chemistry, and importantly advanced electron microscopy. Therefore, to bridge these areas I need to constantly study and learn, think out of the box, establish inter(national) collaborations and remain focused to the research goal.
My main everyday research challenge is to control a macromolecule on atomic level in order to be able to image it. This is both practically and scientifically challenging, due to the diverse nature of macromolecules among others. Apart from that, to stay focused on the exact research goal is particularly important. For a synthetic chemist, atomic resolution microscopy is a completely different world and can be quite alluring when unprecedented results are obtained. Finally, it is widely known that soft matter has limitations when it comes to atomic resolution electron microscopy, and this is an obstacle that I try to overcome on a daily basis.
I trust that this research theme will give us unprecedented findings and will advance the way we perceive soft matter and polymers. In general, the determination of the researcher sculptures the future of a field and therefore, I am confident that a new era of soft matter imaging begins.
I have studied and worked at various universities and countries, including Warwick where I did my PhD. I decided to return to Warwick because it is one of the most well-equipped institutions. The state-of-the-art research facilities, the working environment which is highly supportive, the “Warwick Polymer Family”, the advanced Electron Microscopy RTP and groups, and finally the highly skilled colleagues are the main factors that made me choose Warwick again.
About Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships
These fellowships are for early career researchers, with a research record but who have not yet held a full-time permanent academic post, to undertake a significant piece of publishable work. Fellowships can be held at universities or at other institutions of higher education in the UK. The Fellowships are intended to assist those at a relatively early stage of their academic careers, and it is hoped that the appointment would lead to a more permanent position for the individual, either within the same or another institution. Find out more from The Leverhulme TrustLink opens in a new window.