Case study: Professor Vasilios Stavros

Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow 2017 - 2018
Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick
Unravelling artificial and natural photoprotection through laser photography

"When I applied to the Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship, I had a heavy load of administrative and teaching duties. At the same time, I was trying to develop a new experimental technique but had no time to do it. I needed focused time to get this up and running without interruptions and a fellowship that would fund such 'blue skies' research, so I applied to the Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship. 

"The idea was to use laser photography, essentially as a super-fast camera, to capture millionth of a millionth of a second processes to understand molecular level mechanisms (for example how a sunscreen works to protect the skin in real time). Up until 2014, no one really understood why certain processes worked in such real-life systems or how to determine these. At around the same time, we were also awarded an equipment grant and used it to establish a laser facility at the University of Warwick. I wanted to develop a new experimental technique to track concerted motion of groups of bonds within molecules which could then be used to improve mechanisms for solar fuel efficiency as well as establish concentrations of defects in diamonds. I successfully developed this photographic technique and it is currently being used by my research group and others at the University of Warwick. Getting this particular technique up and running quickly helped (tremendously) my research and also kickstarted numerous collaborations since 'laser time' in the facility is open to researchers in the UK and world-wide. 

"The fellowship helped me get back into the lab and do something I really enjoy, which I hadn’t done for years due to a plethora of teaching and administrative responsibilities. I was able to teach others in the lab, demonstrate how certain kits work to early career researchers and helped them get a better idea of what can be accomplished for future experiments. It allowed me to do the science I want to do, enabling me to dream up new experiments that are actually feasible rather than sat in front of a computer coming up with experiments that are simply not possible!"