Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Dr Antonio de la Vega de Leon attends SRUK award ceremony

The SRUK (Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom) is a non-profit organization that aims to support Spanish researchers abroad, foster scientific cooperation between the UK and Spain, and provide a cohesive position of our community to influence science policy. It organizes science outreach events, provides awards and funding for outstanding members of the community, and generates many networking opportunities. I joined as a volunteer at the beginning of the year and I currently serve as secretary of the Yorkshire constituency, which includes Sheffield, York, Hull, Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield.

I had the pleasure to attend an award ceremony that took place on the 14th of December at the Spanish embassy in London. This was the 2nd SRUK emerging talent award, that recognizes and supports young Spanish researchers that have developed their careers in the United Kingdom. The awardee this year was Xavier Moya, material physicist in the University of Cambridge, for his work finding materials that would make cooling (in ACs and fridges) both more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The awards was funded through Fundación Banco Santander.


The award ceremony started with short introductions by the Spanish ambassador (Carlos Bastarrache Sagües), the president of Fundación Banco Santander (Antonio Escámez), the head of the award selection committee (Alfonso Martínez-Arias), and the president of SRUK (Estrella Luna-Díez). Then Xavier Moya told us about how he ended up working in material physics, and what he had done at Cambridge, as well as what he planned to do with money from the award. One highlight was his discovery that ammonium sulfate, a very common and cheap fertilizer, provided several orders of magnitude better refrigeration capability than traditional gases. He is currently working with a large European appliance company to design a prototype.

His talk was really well done and entertaining. To better explain his research, he gave everyone a rubber balloon and asked us to place it touching our lips (they are the most sensitive part of our bodies to temperature changes). When the balloon was stretched, we could feel it becoming slightly warmer. This is because the material becomes more organized, releasing a small amount of energy as heat. After a bit of time, we let it go back to normal and could feel it become colder. He also showed a video of this process using thermal imaging to illustrate further the point.

The event finished with some very tasty Spanish nibbles, like tortilla de patata, provided by the embassy. It was a good opportunity to meet many scientists and SRUK members. Although going to London and back on the same day was tough (I was back in Sheffield at 1:30am), it was well worth it.

Dr Antonio de la Vega de Leon

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