Kezia Sasitharan - 2D metal-organic nanosheets

For her research project Kezia is exploring 2-D metal-organic nanosheets as new generation photoactive materials in organic bulk heterojunction solar cells.

PhD researcher
  • Name: Kezia Sasitharan
  • Faculty: Science
  • Scholarship: Faculty of Science Doctoral Academy Award

Tell us about your background and your chosen research project.

I grew up in Punjab in northwestern India. I completed my Bachelors of Science, Chemistry (2015) from Women's Christian College, University of Madras, Chennai with a research project on opto-electronic properties of transition metal chalcogenide nanoparticles.

In 2016 I worked as an Indian National Science Academies' visiting summer research fellow at IIT Madras under the supervision of Prof T Pradeep on fabrication of metallic nanostructures using ambient droplet sprays. I obtained my Masters from the Department of Chemistry, Christ University, Bangalore as a University Grants Scholar in 2017.

I spent the summer of 2017 working with Arcler Press Ltd on the editorial team of a graduate level textbook before joining the University of Sheffield for my PhD with the award of the Faculty of Science Doctoral Academy scholarship under the supervision of Dr Jonathan Foster.

My research project is on exploring 2-D metal-organic nanosheets as new generation photoactive materials in organic bulk heterojunction solar cells.

Why did you choose to study at Sheffield?

I took interest in finding out about the University of Sheffield Chemistry department while reading the profile of one of the 2016 Chemistry Nobel Prize winners Sir Fraser Stoddart, a former lecturer in the department.

The reviews that I found online about world class teaching and research excellence motivated me to look into the PhD projects and eventually I ended up joining Dr Foster's research group.

What did winning the scholarship mean to you?

Winning the scholarship was a significant milestone in my academic life. Doing a PhD after my MSc was my goal and the scholarship made it possible and I was very excited and it all felt like a dream.

Applying for the scholarship was a rewarding experience in itself as it was my first time competing at the international level. Thanks to my supervisor for being very supportive in improving my application writing skills. Knowing how competitive it was, winning the scholarship was a real encouragement to work towards my dream of being an accomplished materials scientist.

I have been receiving excellent supervisory support and have managed to generate very exciting results so far.

Kezia Sasitharan

PhD student, Department of Chemistry

What has your experience of doing a PhD at Sheffield been so far?

Since my project is highly interdisciplinary, I have 2 co-supervisors Dr Ahmed Iraqi, an expert in photovoltaic polymers and Prof David Lidzey, an expert in photonic devices and thin-film semiconductor materials. I have been receiving excellent supervisory support and have managed to generate very exciting results so far having made the first example of solar cells having metal-organic nanosheets in the active layer.

The training offered in research techniques has been very good and I also have a good number of interesting side projects. I have been involved with the chemschools lab in running an outreach activity for Y8 students called, 'Make your own solar cells out of fruit juice'.

I get lots of opportunities to present my work as posters in conferences and symposiums. There are plenty of support groups in the University for Women in science, researchers from developing countries, writing skill development all of which have been very useful for me.

I have very much enjoyed my research so far. I recently got awarded the DAAD Rise Professional scholarship and will be doing a research placement at Helmholtz Centre for materials and energy, Berlin.

What are your future plans?

I would like to continue as a research scientist in materials for energy applications and progress into becoming an independant research leader.

Do you have any advice for future prospective PhD students?

Give your best. Try to make use of every research experience opportunity that you get as along with making your CV look better it will also prepare you for a good PhD. Plan for applications in advance.

Do spend enough time to find the right match of project for you, a project that will be of interest to you for the next 3-4 years, because at the end of the day it's going to be your project and you are the one who will be taking it forward.

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