Case study: Professor Matt Rosseinsky

Royal Society Research Professor
Department of Chemistry, University of Liverpool

Professor Matt Rosseinsky FRS took up a Royal Society Professorship in March 2013.  
Matt leads a research group at the University of Liverpool that works to both enhance the fundamental knowledge of physical and chemical properties of new materials, and to improve the performance of materials for applications including energy storage and generation, communications and catalysis. 
We caught up with him to see how his research has developed since taking up the award.

Your research looks at wide range of possibilities relating to the chemical synthesis of new materials – are there any areas that have particularly excelled since the start of your Professorship?

We have developed new computational techniques that couple with our experimental work to accelerate the identification of new materials with enhanced properties. This has allowed us to carry out the design of materials with property combinations that have been very difficult to create – for example, a material that combines ferromagnetism and electrical polarization at room temperature. Not only is this a fundamental scientific challenge, it is important for the development of new information processing and storage technologies. Underlying the search for new materials is the basic challenge of predicting which combinations of atoms are stable enough to be isolated as materials – recently we’ve reported a new approach that allows the computational prediction of stable compositions which are subsequently made experimentally in the laboratory. It is this type of basic research advance that the Professorship is enabling. 

Has your Royal Society Research Professorship enabled you to spend more time on your research than would have been possible without it?

It has been extremely important in allowing me more time to work on research, though before being awarded the Professorship I had agreed to be a panel member for the 2014 REF which was pretty time-consuming, although interesting too.

Can you tell us about a typical day in the Rosseinsky Group lab?

I am not sure there is a typical day in any research activity, but intense discussion of new data between group members, engagement with collaborators and trying to find ways to fix critical items that break at the most inconvenient time seem to be recurring features.

What challenges do you look forward to solving in the future?

The challenge of creating function in materials by control of atomic and molecular arrangements is one of the outstanding problems in science and I hope we can continue to make contributions to it. There will be no “magic bullet” solution because of the role of both intrinsic materials properties at the unit cell level and of materials processing to modify those properties, rather the community will develop a toolkit of solutions based on fusing chemical and physical understanding with computation. We will focus on materials for energy, catalysis and information storage and processing, and on developing new approaches to accelerate materials discovery.