Mid-Candidature Review

As a PhD candidate at Monash University, I am thrilled to share my recent experience completing my two-year mid-candidature review – a significant milestone in a PhD journey which marks not just a checkpoint, but a chance to reflect at the journey thus far. Each of the three PhD milestones is an opportunity to present our work to a varied audience, an experience that not only tests our research progress but also our ability to communicate complex ideas in a way that resonates with everyone. It’s been a path of continuous learning, discoveries, and improvements, overcoming challenges in the world of 2D materials and scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM).

My research focuses on 2D materials (materials that are literally a the width of a single atom!) that exhibit correlated electron phenomena, which are fascinating properties that emerge when electrons in a material interact with each other. These interactions could be the key to unlocking new technologies that will vastly improve the computational power and efficiency of future electronic devices. To characterise these materials, I use low-temperature STM and STS, powerful techniques that allow us to visualise and measure the properties of materials at the atomic scale. These techniques have been instrumental in unravelling the mysteries of the quantum world and have far-reaching applications in the field of condensed matter physics.

One of the highlights of my PhD journey so far has been the development of Scanbot, an automated STM operation system. It’s not a futuristic robot, but it does bring automation to STM operation, significantly enhancing the efficiency of our research, minimising the need for those long, late-night lab sessions! It’s a testament to the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, integrating elements of physics, engineering, and computer science.

Another accomplishment that I shared during my review was my work on characterising a 2D Kagome metal-organic framework – a 2D material that’s constructed from organic molecules coordinated to metal atoms. The Kagome lattice is a unique arrangement of atoms, reminiscent of a traditional Japanese woven pattern, that often gives rise to intriguing electronic properties. In this MOF, I found that the molecules tilt in a peculiar way, giving rise to distinct, beautiful looking superstructures (stay tuned!).

Presenting these accomplishments at the two-year milestone review was a humbling experience. It reminded me of the initial steps I took on this PhD journey and the vast amount of knowledge I’ve accumulated since. However, it also underscored the immense expanse of the unknown that still lies ahead. This moment served as a nudge, inspiring me to strive harder, dig deeper, and continually evolve as a scientist.