Stuart is Professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Strathclyde and a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) scientific collaboration. His research falls into two main categories: the development of laser mirror coatings for gravitational wave detectors, and a process known as nanokicking, which is the use of nanoscale vibration to manipulate cell behaviour. “The two are linked because for gravitational wave detectors we use massive laser interferometers to measure tiny ripples in space and time, and for nanokicking we use very small lab based interferometers to measure nanoscale vibrations”.
Whilst working at the University of the West of Scotland in 2013, Stuart was awarded an Industry Fellowship to work with Gas Sensing Solutions Ltd, based in Cumbernauld and Glasgow. “One of the reasons I was interested in working with Gas Sensing Solutions was that they were growing perfect crystal systems that we wanted to exploit for high-performance mirror coatings”. This collaboration allowed Stuart to both help the company develop their gas sensor technology and, in the process, understand more about how to make the coatings he required.
“After the initial production process in the company, we brought the gas sensors back to the university for some additional processing. That felt like a really nice collaboration, because it was only possible by using technology that was in both places.”
As part of his Industry Fellowship, Stuart also mentored two Royal Society industry summer students. “It can be difficult to give undergraduate students a proper flavour of what research is, but when they do they often enjoy it. The summer student scheme is a great half way house between academia and industry, providing them the safety of a university but allowing them to engage with industry as well.”
Following his Industry Fellowship, Stuart was awarded funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and continues to collaborate with Gas Sensing Solutions. “The Fellowship has allowed me to leverage funding to expand our project work, accelerating the research activities that I was involved in and helping me progress within academia.”