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Working with world-leading minds: postgraduate student profile

Working alongside two Nobel laureates on technological developments that could transform the world as we know it is all in a day’s work for Chris Berger (PhD Nanomechanics of Graphene), whose research into graphene is giving him insight into a future with limitless possibilities.

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On science at Manchester

“One of the best things about Manchester is the huge expanse of research that’s going on here. If you have an idea, the facilities you need are here somewhere – so you can get very creative with your research, because there are no limitations.

“That’s quantity – but there’s also quality, especially in the National Graphene Institute. Every bit of kit here is the newest version and the highest spec. The precision and speed you can work at is incredible.”

On having Nobel laureates as colleagues

“The whole world wants to work with these two Nobel laureates. They only pick the very best, so working alongside them means you’re also working with the best physicists and engineers from around the world.

“Witnessing their methods, their efficiency and their intelligence allows you to become an independent researcher very quickly.”

On transforming health care

“My research focuses on nano-mechanical systems. Take microfluidic circuits, where you control fluids on such a tiny scale that you can carry out chemistry experiments, which would usually take a whole laboratory, in a chip the size of an SD card.

“This has allowed HIV diagnosis to reach the poorest nations, where there are no facilities. Further work could have a huge impact on health care in poorer communities.”

On the future of energy

“My speciality is membranes. A graphene membrane can split water and create high-efficiency energy from the protons. Imagine the electronics that you use in everyday life – your kettle, toaster, computers, home telephone – all those things could be powered by capsules of water the size of an AA battery.”

On collaboration

“At Manchester, you have a huge pool of experienced researchers who are all open to discussion. You learn about new fields, which broadens your own research scope. And, when you come across a problem in your PhD, rather than spending time reading online sources, you can get up from your desk, walk to someone else’s office and ask for help. Everyone works together.”