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International Year of Light - Giuditta Perversi

Giuditta Perversi

Tell us about your PhD project

I'm a material chemist, so I'm interested in creating new materials and finding new interesting properties of already known ones.

It's a broad area of research that it's open to different approaches, but the ones we use at the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions in Edinburgh is pushing the material in study far away from "normal conditions" using high temperature and high pressure, or really low temperatures.

Why is light important to your research?

Studying a material always calls for knowing its structure and internal atomic arrangement precisely! We don't only want to find new properties, we also want to know the structural features they are coming from to be able to reproduce them in other systems if needed.

Light is a key element for this process because the most efficient way to study the structure of most materials is using X-Ray diffraction! By using a light with a wavelength comparable to less than the distance between two atoms in a material we are able to determine its structure. Moreover, with really intense sources and nice instrumentations such as the ones that can be found at the Diamond Synchrotron in Oxfordshire you can apply high pressure, high temperature and low temperature while following the structure with X-rays, to add additional information about what it's happening to the material and how!

Describe your average day of PhD work here in the School of Chemistry

Is there even such a thing as average day? It really depends on what is going on in that exact week.

I might be drowning in data from X-ray diffraction collections, so I spend a lot of time at the computer trying to analyse them. I might be trying to create a new starting material from high-temperature synthesis, so I work around in the lab with powders and furnaces. Maybe my material requires high-pressures and high-temperature at the same time and so the reaction that I set up takes place in our multi-anvil reactor in the dedicated room.

It's also a possibility that I'm not even in the School of Chemistry because I've been shipped off to a synchrotron! I also enjoy doing a lot of public engagement so tailing Jenny Bos around in Science Festivals and the like it's a good guess of what I might be doing if all of the above don't apply!

Giuditta and colleagues at an outreach event at Edinburgh Zoon

Giuditta and colleagues at an outreach event at Edinburgh Zoo

What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?

Apart from said public engagement activities, I am a big enthusiast of medieval stuff and hiking trips. Scotland is really nice in this regard and provides endless amounts of castles, abbeys and standing stones! Luckily, I also have a huge group of fellow PhDs of the University to join me, even though I fish them out mostly from History, Literature and various Humanities disciplines...

Moreover, I'm a big fan of films, telefilms and computer games, so it's not uncommon that I'm geeking around at home or at the cinema!

What's your favourite chemical reaction?

I will have to go for the transformation of Carbon-Graphite in Carbon-Diamond with high pressures and high temperature for obvious reasons!

How diamonds are made from graphite