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Ross Cowie wins The Global Undergraduate Awards 2019 regional prize for Mathematics and Physics in Europe

27 September 2019

Recent graduate Ross Cowie has been announced Regional Winner (Europe) of the The Global Undergraduate Awards 2019 in the category Mathematics & Physics! There are currently seven UA Regions: Africa and Middle East, Asia, Europe, Island of Ireland, Latin America, Oceania, US and Canada. A Regional Winner is the highest-performing Highly Commended Entrant from a UA region in their category. This is a unique opportunity to have a student's work recognised by an international panel of expert judges working in some of the world's top academic institutions. Through a fully anonymised online submission platform, UA has designed a fair and equal awards programme open to students regardless of background. Students can submit their project report to one of 25 categories.

Ross Cowie said: "I'd like to thank both Prof Malte Gather and Dr Marcel Schubert for having been excellent supervisors during my MPhys project; it played a large part in my project work and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue my studies as a PhD student under their supervision."

Ross's MPhys project was titled 'Quantifying bio-mechanical stresses in 3D cellular environments via the use of micro-droplet lasers', where the main aim was to test and characterise laser droplet sensors for quantifying bio-mechanical stresses. It involved inserting oil droplets doped with fluorescent dye inside of 3D cancer cell cultures and examining them by using a fluorescence microscopy apparatus. The droplets act as stress sensors because they behave as deformable 'whispering gallery mode' (WGM) lasers when pumped with an excitation laser. WGM lasers have a characteristic spectrum which is dependent the geometry of the cavity, so upon application of mechanical stress from the surrounding cells the droplets deform which affects the spacing between peaks in the spectrum. By quantifying the spacing between the peaks, one can also quantify the stress by determining the change in dimensions required for the observed peak spacing and then using the Young-Laplace law to determine the stress. Using this technique allows stresses on the order of pN/µm^2 to be measured at several different positions in the cell culture and also allows for faster data acquisition than previous confocal imaging droplet sensor techniques.

Head of School presents the prize for best poster to Ross Cowie.

At the project prizes awards before Graduation in June 2019, Ross Cowie received the prize for the best poster for experimental physics, for his poster on "Quantifying forces within 3D cellular aggregates via use of deformable whispering gallery mode laser cavities". His work was supervised by Malte Gather and Marcel Schubert.