Winter School inspires the next generation of scientific researchers

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Current University of Newcastle students had exclusive access to leading researchers and advanced equipment at the annual Winter School, held at Callaghan campus this week.

Students receive a demonstration of flexiproof printing at the winter school

Hosted by the Centre for Organic Electronics (COE), the Winter School highlights the possibility of a career in research with students by developing their skills and understanding of the impact of research.

The COE is at the forefront of printed electronics research in Australia and home to Founder and Director Professor Paul Dastoor, who is renowned for his solar paint and scanning helium microscope (SHeM) innovations.

The Winter School is now in its seventh year and focused on communication to equip students with skills required in the future workforce.

“A large part of research is presenting ideas and findings to others through journal articles, conferences and talks. Being able to form a view that is supported by evidence and presented in a convincing way is a skillset in demand across the workforce,” said the Head of the Organising Committee, Dr Ben Vaughan.

Across the three days, students had an opportunity to build organic solar cells and organic transistors, which are the foundations of the research done at COE.

The tiny solar cells are only one centimetre square and can absorb light to create electricity, while the transistor can be used as a sensor to detect materials such as glucose for diabetes management, opening the possibility of a saliva blood sugar test instead of the finger prick test used today.

Students were then able to print their devices on an industrial scale, using NIER’s pilot-scale roll-to-roll printing facility that can produce kilometres of flexible electronics each day.

The skills developed during the Winter School and in following graduate programs have helped former participants secure research careers with industry or undertake a PhD.

“We help students take the leap from proscribed learning, where the outcome is known, to research where the outcome is unknown. This takes critical thinking, an eye for detail and lots of perseverance, which are all traits we encourage and develop through the program,” said Dr Vaughan.

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