Mr Daniel Toolan




Dr Jonathan Howse


I studied Chemistry and completed my Master's thesis under the supervision of Prof. Tony Ryan at the University of Sheffield in 2011. As part of my degree I spent a year in industry at Tata Steel R, D & T, which taught me a great deal about the importance of science in the commercial world.

During my PhD I developed the technique of stroboscopic microscopy, this technique allows direct imaging during spin-coating, allowing us to directly observe, in real-time, self-assembly processes (such as, phase-separation, phase coarsening, agglomeration, stratification etc…) at the microscale. I have used this technique to study topographical, compositional and crystalline development in spin-coated polymer blends. Further, I have studied the ordering of colloids, which has allowed the identification several key mechanisms governing the formation of colloidal crystals.

I am currently working on a project aiming to develop a synthetic pH switch through incorporation of enzymes within microparticles. Such enzyme-microparticles have technological applications in bio-sensors, bio-fuel cells or bio-refineries for complex chemical transformations. This work aims to synthetically replicate biological processes, such as frog oocytes maturation, synchronisation of activity in bacteria (quorum sensing) and cellular aggregation in slime mould, which all require a rapid transition from one state to another following a supercritical stimulus. These kinetically-controlled cell switches are driven by feedback such as autocatalysis, when a reaction is catalysed by its product.


Toolan, D. T. W., Haq, E. u., Dunbar, A., Ebbens, S., Clarke, N., Topham, P. D., Howse, J. R. Direct observation of morphological development during the spin-coating of polystyrene-poly(methyl methacrylate) polymer blends. Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics 2013.

Topham, P. D., Glidle, A., Toolan, D. T. W., Weir, M. P., Skoda, M., Barker, R. D., Howse, J. R. The relationship between charge density and polyelectrolyte brush profile using simultaneous neutron reflectivity and in situ attenuated total internal reflection FTIR. Langmuir 2013.

Toolan, D. T. W. & Howse, J. R. Development of in situ studies of spin coated polymer films. Journal of Materials Chemistry C 1, 603-616 (2013).

Toolan, D. T. W., Parnell, A. J., Topham, P. D. & Howse, J. R. Directed phase separation of PFO:PS blends during spin-coating using feedback controlled in situ stroboscopic fluorescence microscopy. Journal of Materials Chemistry A (2013).


  • RSC Macro Group Young Researcher of the Year 2012
  • Faculty of Science Research Photography Competition - Commended
  • KRI Scientific Image Competition 2012 - Commended
  • Chemical & Biological Engineering Photography Competition 2012 - Runner up


Direct observation of phase separation in PS:PFO blends during spin coating via high speed stroboscopic fluorescence microscopy - Macro Group Young Researchers Meeting, Cambridge 2012