Susan Perkin honoured in annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

Congratulations to Professor of Physical Chemistry, Susan Perkin, who has been named Award Laureate in the 2023 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK. The award comes in recognition of her experimental work using a custom-built instrument – known as the Surface Force Balance – to determine the properties of fluids.

Professor Perkin’s research focuses on the diverse properties that fluids can exhibit, depending on their chemical composition. Seawater, biological cytosol (the fluid inside cells), and batteries are all examples of solutions with different properties according to their relative concentration and chemical makeup of charged particles (electrolytes). While the behavior of dilute solutions is well-defined and predictable, Professor Perkin’s research focuses on ways to study highly concentrated electrolyte solutions that tend to be of particular interest to current science and technology, such as those used in batteries. These are generally more difficult to study.

Professor Perkin has developed a custom instrument called a Surface Force Balance (SFB) that can be used to study the mechanical, optical, electrostatic and dynamic properties of fluids, by shedding light on the complex interactions of concentrated solutions of charged particles at the molecular level. Using the SFB to measure the properties and molecular interactions of these solutions at the nanoscale, Professor Perkin has uncovered new information about biomolecular interactions and about energy storage in devices such as batteries and supercapacitors, where ionic interactions near liquid-solid interfaces are crucially important.

Professor Mark Brouard, Head of Department, Oxford Chemistry, said:

We are so proud that one of our outstanding academics has been named the UK Award Laureate in this year’s Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. Many congratulations to Professor Susan Perkin for this great achievement, which recognises her ground-breaking work in the description of fluids and fluid-like substances. The award is also fantastic recognition of the work of her research group, and of the workshops team here in Chemistry, who are so crucial to this type of experimental research.

Professor Perkin said:

I was amazed and delighted to hear the news of this wonderful award. I look forward to the opportunity it will bring to share my fascination with the microscopic interactions and processes that determine properties of materials all around us.

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, celebrate the past accomplishments and future potential of the UK’s most innovative young scientists and engineers. The 2023 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK received 77 nominations from 43 academic and research institutions across the UK.

The 2023 Blavatnik Awards in the UK Laureates and Finalists will be honoured at a black-tie gala dinner and award ceremony at Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, on 28 February 2023. Professor Irene Tracey, newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford, will serve as ceremony presenter.