School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


21 Sep 2021

PhD students win prestigious international awards


Recently, two Loughborough PhD students have received prestigious international awards at the Euro-Asian Pulsed Power Conference (EAPPC), held in Biarritz, France between 29 August and 3 September 2021.

Matthew Woodyard and Jessica Stobbs, both from the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, were recently named as the winners of two esteemed awards at the EAPPC.

Matthew Woodyard was awarded the EAPPC Outstanding Young Researcher Award (no older than 35 years old) which is presented to a researcher who can contribute with an outstanding oral presentation during the conference that should include a worldwide relevant breakthrough in pulsed power physics and technology.

Matthew’s research is concentrated on the generation of intense Pulsed Electric Fields (PEF). It is the latest advancement in a novel and non-invasive food processing technique developed at Loughborough University. It utilises the output of a compact one-million-volt pulsed power generator, based on Tesla transformer technology and, if it is successful, it may change the way food is preserved.

“It was a huge honour to be recognised as an outstanding young researcher. The culmination of this research topic has taken a few years to come to fruition and simply would not have been possible without the support and advice of my supervisor Professor Novac as well as the skill and craftsmanship of the technicians making my designs a reality.”, Matthew said of the occasion.

“PEF as a technology is very much still in its infancy and despite having numerous applications within industrial food processing and biomedical research, there is much more work required to develop this capability further. Now that I find myself in the closing months of my PhD journey, I look forward to a career utilising pulsed power in solving the single largest technical challenge of the 21st century – nuclear fusion!”

Jessica Stobbs received from the International Society on Pulsed Power Applications a travel grant, after impressing the panel/judges with the outstanding results of her research, which investigates supersonic pulsed electric discharges in water and the production of ultrasound associated with them.

Jessica’s research concerns the practical demonstration of an underwater supersonic acoustic source. She explains, “By applying a large potential difference across specially shaped electrodes in water, an electrical breakdown of the gap between them occurs, much like lightning forms in storm clouds. The electrical breakdown of the gap results in a channel of conducting plasma forming, which is so energetic that a sound wave is emitted.

“My research studies the breakdown and the sound wave produced in a number of ways: electrical measurements of the energy that is fed into the system, and acoustic recordings of the sound produced and high-speed images of both phenomena. The goal is to understand how properties of the electrical breakdown affect the properties of the sound wave.”

Delighted with this recognition, Jessica said, “Winning this travel grant is important to me for two main reasons. Firstly, I feel that this award acknowledges my work; I have found that studying for a PhD can be a time of self-doubt and anxiety about the quality of my own work, however this award has given me the confidence in my own ability to work at this level.

“Secondly, the cost of a conference is the greatest obstacle to attending them, second only to Covid restrictions! The contribution this grant will make to my research funds will allow me to attend at least one more before the completion of my PhD. Conferences are a fantastic opportunity to meet influential researchers from around the world, gain experience delivering presentations and discuss both your own, and other peoples work with experts in the field. I left the EAPPC with a pocketful of business cards, a notebook of experimental advice, and invitations to visit other laboratories!”

Matthew and Jessica attended the conference together with their supervisor, Professor Bucur Novac, who played the role of Technical Chair at the EAPPC conference and is the Head of Loughborough’s Plasma and Pulsed Power Research Group. Having been postponed by a year due to the pandemic, the EAPPC provided a forum for scientists and engineers in the field of physics and pulsed power technology, to cover a wide range of topics, as well as the opportunity for attendees to exchange scientific and technical information between industry, academic institutions, and leading research organisations in a wide range of current and emerging research areas.

 Photo credit University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour (UPPA)

Athena Swan Bronze award

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The Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU