Bluebell Drummond
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An academic and cultural exchange in Japan

Postgraduate student Bluebell Drummond enjoyed an intellectual and cultural exchange when she visited Japan as part of her PhD research.

Bluebell is a second year PhD student in the Department of Physics, investigating the photo- and spin-physics of organic optoelectronics. 

An experimental physicist, she works in collaboration with chemists and theoretical physicists to better understand the properties of these materials and their applications, which can include anything from smartphones to solar panels.

After attending the week-long NanoDTC JapaNano symposium in Tokyo, which visited institutes including Tokyo Tech, Toshiba and RIKEN, she opted to extend her stay by another week. Bluebell received funding from Fitzwilliam to support her trip to Japan, allowing her to buy a high-speed rail pass to visit other parts of the country - including Kyoto.

She told “It’s the home of my area of research. There was a lot to be learned by embedding myself for a few days in the groups that really understand this research from the beginning.

“Most of the groups in Japan are chemists, not physicists. It’s interesting to speak to them about how they think about designing these materials, because I’m trying to think about design rules from a different perspective.”

Bluebell Drummond with members of the Kaji Group in Kyoto
Bluebell, second left, with members of the Kaji Group in Kyoto

Bluebell uses lasers to test new materials for organic LEDs to enhance our understanding of how they work. Her feedback can also help chemists to synthesise more efficient materials.

She added: “These organic materials haven’t been fully understood, so I want to contribute to that understanding.

“Chemists have synthesised them and we have a rough idea of how they work, but not completely. I’m studying the photo-physics of these materials – to understand the fundamental physics of what’s happening on a molecular scale when these materials are emitting light – using lasers.

“To simulate how these new materials operate in an LED I fire lasers at them and see what happens. Do they emit light, or not? How bright is the light? What colour is the light? Is there an afterglow? Some materials have a long afterglow, so measuring the lifetime of the emission is important.

“We’ve had a couple of interesting papers so far, but not anything getting to the core of what really makes these new organic materials so efficient in LEDs. The field is on the edge of it, but in the course of the next few years, I expect we will get to the bottom of this – I hope to have a role in that.”

Bluebell Drummond with members of the OPERA group at Kyushu University
Bluebell, second right, with members of the OPERA group at Kyushu University

Bluebell completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester and joined Fitzwilliam, initially, for her Masters.

She rowed for a year, until injury curtailed her participation and she became the coach of the women’s novice boat. 

She was a MCR social secretary and is involved in Women in Physics through the Cavendish Inspiring Womxn group, which runs events to promote the visibility and raise the voices of women in physics. This is done through a mixture of academic and social events.

She added: “The main focus is creating a community and also trying to normalise female academics.

“We’re pushing the department to take up initiatives to do with equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Being part of a community, broader than your immediate work colleagues, is important to Bluebell.

“It gives you a much broader network of people and friends,” she added.

“There is so much support for postgrads, which I just don’t think you get anywhere else.”

Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto


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