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BASF / Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship in Data-Driven Molecular Engineering of Functional Materials awarded to Cambridge Researcher, Jacqui Cole

last modified Oct 17, 2018 09:12 AM

The Royal Academy of Engineering has awarded Jacqui Cole a 5-year Fellowship under their Research Chair and Senior Research Fellowship scheme. This is only the second time that a Fellowship under this award scheme for senior-researchers has been bestowed on a Cambridge researcher. These coveted research Fellowships are presented to top-ranked researchers in Universities across the country each year.

Jacqui Cole is Head of Molecular Engineering at Cambridge. She leads a 22-strong interdisciplinary research group, as well as the University initiative in Molecular Engineering, via her joint appointment between the Departments of Physics (Cavendish Laboratory) and Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, together with external partnership.

The founding external partner to Molecular Engineering @ Cambridge is the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. This Royal Academy of Engineering award enables Jacqui to welcome a new external partner to join this University initiative, BASF, who are the world’s largest chemical company. BASF and the Royal Academy of Engineering will share the title of the eponymously named Fellowship to be held by Jacqui, and will work together with continuing support from STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Jacqui will lead this synergic collaboration between industry, a government laboratory, and academia, with the endorsement of this learned society, to provide a world-leading platform for Data-Driven Molecular Engineering of Functional Materials.

This platform engages a data-driven approach to materials discovery whereby the team will apply the latest advances in artificial intelligence (see ‘spotlight on AI’ news), to systematically predict new chemical materials that are tailored to suit a given device application. Lead candidates from these materials predictions will then be experimentally validated via concerted team efforts in synthesis, advanced materials characterization, device fabrication and testing. This systematic approach overcomes the traditional ‘trial-and-error’ methods to materials discovery. This is an important paradigm shift for industry because this reliance on serendipitous materials discovery has led to an unfeasibly long ‘molecule-to-market’ timeframe of 20 years (current global average).

A data-science platform for the molecular engineering of functional materials stands to massively accelerate technological innovation, via the provision of new materials developed by rational molecular design to suit a given device application. Through this Fellowship, Jacqui aims to deliver new materials for three key industrial application areas: solar cells, magnetic devices and catalysts.

This strong endorsement from the Royal Academy of Engineering for Jacqui’s research, together with substantial industry and government support, positions Molecular Engineering @ Cambridge firmly on the world stage. This endorsement of her industry-relevant research is particularly befitting to Jacqui since her pioneering work that led to this Fellowship stemmed from her Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Design Fellowship whose mission is to “increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry”. This award also reflects Jacqui’s highly interdisciplinary scope, fashioned by her degrees that span all of the STEM subjects. She will therefore play a leading role in training the next-generation of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers via this Fellowship, which befits the UK government campaign which has designated that 2018 is the Year of Engineering.