At the moment I’m working in two different technical areas:
I make very small devices, on the micro-scale (a thousandth of a centimetre) and those devices are known as micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMs).
I’m creating a MEM’s device that uses ‘nano-needles’ to extract blood from the arm, analyse the blood, and then transmit the analysis to a base station, which could then be sent to your mobile phone. The results could be relayed to a similar device on your other arm, which would then give you an injection of a drug to combat that very disease you’re treating. For example, we could measure the concentration of glucose in blood, and then, if you’re diabetic we could supply insulin into the other arm. And this could be done on a continuous basis, rather than waiting until someone has had a glycaemic attack.
I’m currently focused on making the ‘nano-needles’ for the MEM’s described above, with 600 µm height and a pitch of about 100 µm. Because the needles are so small, when you press them into the arm you shouldn’t feel any pain, and placement can therefore be done by untrained personnel, e.g. by a solider to his mate on the battlefield – you don’t need someone to give an injection with a syringe.
The other project I’m working on is to grow semi-conductor crystal layers for opto-electronic devices.
Semi-conductors are really the heart of broadband telecommunications systems as well as electronic systems, so the heart of a transistor is a semi-conductor material. We have a technique that can grow these crystalline materials atom-layer by atom-layer. The technique is called Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE). When you control it at that level, you can get quite novel effects appearing in terms of optics or electronics, giving a whole new family of devices which can be used in either electronic or opto-electronic devices.
In a broadband system, the transmission medium is an optical fibre: at one end you have a laser, which is a source, in other words, you shine a light down the fibre, and you collect it at the other end. It just so happens that the source is a semi-conductor laser, and the device you collect it with at the other end is a semi-conductor detector. For example, NBN uses optical fibres to connect people up, but the devices that transmit the information are lasers, and at the other end are semi-conductor detectors.
I trained as a scientist. My first degree was in chemistry, my second degree was in chemical physics, and so I’d already started to make the move away from pure science. Afterward, I joined British Telecom, and started to work on various telecommunications systems. Though I worked on materials, they were all materials for telecoms systems. The first one was for a microwave system which would have been the precursor to optical fibre. We were very close to making it successful, but then optical fibre came along and swept it away. Then I started to work on devices and systems for semiconductors and optical fibres. I see the value in engineering and am very keen to promote it as a profession.
For it to be the best that it can be. We’ve made great strides forward so far in terms of international rankings, student population, the quality of the student intake etc. so I would like to see that continue, and to fulfil its potential.
I don’t think people see what a broad area engineering is – all of the way from the bionic eye, quantum computing, to building bridges and transport systems, and all the infrastructure we come to accept now as a common course. Engineers are so important to the country, because of the sheer breadth of things that engineers do. It’s engineers that are going to solve the big problems of the future.
I think engineering is a great profession to be in. One senior academic said to me ‘once you’re an engineer, you’re always an engineer’ that is, you never lose your capability to be inquisitive, to solve problems, and solve problems in a numerate way. I think when you’ve got that sort of background you can do almost any job that’s out there. So whether you stay in the profession or not, it’s the fact that we give you such a good training that you could take any job and it will enable you to adapt to any role.
Open week for new graduates
Eng 1000: Introduction
FTSE: Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
FREng: Elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering
FIET: Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology; C Eng: Chartered Engineer
FInstP: Fellow of the Institute of Physics; C Phys: Chartered Physicist
MRSC: Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry; C Chem: Chartered Chemist
FIM3: Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining
FIoN: Founding Fellow of the Institute of Nanotechnology
Chair, Go8 Engineering Deans (since 2012)
Member of Chief Scientist’s STEM Strategy Committee (since 2013)
Board Member, C02 Cooperative Research Centre (C02CRC) (since 2010)
Board Member, Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (AMCRC) (since 2009)
Board Member, NewSouth Innovations (since 2009)
Chair MatsUK Science and Technology Committee (since 2006)
Editor, Journal of Engineering Science & Technology (since 2006)
Member of EPSRC Materials Review College (since 2000)
Elected top 100 most influential engineers in Australia, 2008 – 2013
Platinum medal, Institute of Materials, Mining and Minerals, 2008, ‘For outstanding service to materials science and in particular, nanotechnology’.
Distinguished Visiting Scientist, appointed by the Chinese Government at Xi’an Jiao Tong University, 2007
Who’s Who, 2005 (UK and Australia)
Honorary Professor, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, PR China, 2004
Honorary Professor, Swansea University, 1994, re-elected 1999
‘Best of the Best Award’ Arthur D Little for Technology and Innovation for Global Business, 1997
British Telecom Directorate Award for contributions to ‘R&D Management’, 1997
British Telecom Divisional and Directorate Awards for contributions to the ‘Global Competitor Task force’, 1993
British Telecom Christopher Columbus Scientific Prize, for papers published on ‘Transactions of the Faraday Society,’ ‘Effect of Pressure and Temperature on the Intermolecular Mean Square Torque in Liquids CS2 and CCl4’, 1978
Institute of Electrical Engineers, Duddell Premium, for ‘Low-loss Dielectrics (polymers) for the 10-300 GHz Region’, 1974
G J Davies, D A Andrews and R Heckingbottom, US No 274286, Canadian No 378104, Filed 15.6.81 and 24.5.81 respectively: ‘MBE Electrolytic Dopant Source’
E G Scott, G J Davies, R Heckingbottom and D A Andrews, BT Case No A231156, filed 21.8.84: ‘Knudsen Effusion Cells and Molecular beam Epitaxy’
G J Davies and C R Elliot, Patent Appl No 8429701, Filed 23.11.84: ‘Tapered Layers for Optical Devices’
G J Davies and P Pantelis, BT Case No A23201, Filed 1.85: ‘Optical Compositions: Non-linear Optical Materials’