Melissa Mather carried out a Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons), majoring in physics, at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia. This was followed by a PhD (2003) studying the evaluation by ultrasound of radiation sensitive polymer gels, carried out in the Centre for Medical, Health and Environmental Physics at QUT. In May 2003 Melissa took up an appointment as research fellow in the Applied Ultrasonics research group in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Nottingham. This post involved the development of ultrasonic techniques for characterisation of industrially relevant solid-in-liquid suspensions and the detection of phase transitions in supercritical fluids. In October 2005 Melissa was appointed as research fellow in the Applied Optics group as part of the 'remedi' EPSRC Grand Challenge in Regenerative Medicine. In this role she worked closely with industry to develop non-invasive characterisation techniques for application in regenerative medicine. In 2008 Melissa was awarded a 3 year National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Strategic Fellowship. In this post her research work centred on the development of novel acoustic methods to investigate the complex mechanical properties of hydrogels on a mesoscopic scale. Melissa also took a leading role in the development of an ASTM International standard guide on hydrogel characterisation which will assist in the regulation of hydrogel products. This involved co-ordinating a working group containing members from industry, academia and the United States Food and Drug Administration. In 2011 Melissa joined the Institute of Biophysics, Imaging and Optical Science (IBIOS), University of Nottingham to take up the award of an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship to develop a new class of ultrasonic transducer based on self-assembling liposomes. During this time she also led a major research activity in IBIOS centred on label-free, multi-modal optical microscopy for characterisation of live cells in culture. The downstream applications of this novel optical imaging platform lie in cellular therapies used in Regenerative Medicine. Significant findings from this work include acquisition of label-free images of live cells with unprecedented high spatial resolution. The multi-modal aspect of the instrument has also enabled early prediction of stem cell differentiation which is of tremendous value to not only those developing new therapies but also in relation to end product regulatory safety and efficacy tests. In 2014 Melissa was invited to take the role of Deputy Director and Engineering lead of IBIOS. In August 2015 Melissa was appointed Professor of Biomedical Imaging in the Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University. In this role she continued to pursue research in the discovery and development of optical, ultrasound and opto-acoustic techniques for non-invasive monitoring of lipid membranes, cells, tissue and biomaterials. Melissa was awarded a five year fellowship from the European Research Council in 2016 to fund her project entitled "TransPhorm - Single molecule imaging of transmembrane protein structure and function in their native state". This project aims to pioneer new technology to enable the proteins found in the membrane of cells responsible for the regulation of cell function and communication to be studied in their natural environment with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. An understanding of these proteins, called ion channels, is of immense importance to obtain new insight into numerous physiological processes including electrical signalling in the heart and nervous system, hormone secretion, the role of nutrient transporters in cancer growth, endocytosis and gene expression. This work will help to reveal how the dysfunction of these proteins leads to disease and downstream will accelerate drug discovery as ion channel modulators represent an extremely important class of pharmaceuticals. In 2018 Melissa returned with her whole research group to the University of Nottingham as a full professor in the Faculty of Engineering. Her current portfolio of research includes grants from UKRI for the investigation of mitochondrial function using diamond quantum sensors and correlative electron microscopy and optically detected magnetic resonance for characterisation of nanoscale materials. In February 2023 she was awarded a Chair in Emerging Technologies from the Royal Academy of Engineering to pursue a 10 year programme of work developing integrated diamond photonic platforms for the next generation of quantum sensors.
Quantum sensing, Nitrogen Vacancy defects, optical microscopy, photonics, biosensing
I am currently funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering through their Chair in Emerging Technologies award. This work is establishing integrated diamond photonics platforms to deliver the next… read more
I am currently funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering through their Chair in Emerging Technologies award. This work is establishing integrated diamond photonics platforms to deliver the next generation of quantum sensors. Diamond quantum sensors can be used for a wide range of measurements, including magnetic fields, electric fields, temperature, pressure, and even biological and chemical substances. They are particularly useful for high precision and high sensitivity applications, such as imaging in medicine and biology, drug discovery and diagnostic testing, as well as for exploring quantum mechanics and fundamental physics.
Diamond quantum sensors have the advantages of being robust, scalable, and easy to integrate with conventional measurement systems, with tremendously wide applicability including in biomarker diagnostics to accelerate biomedical research, drug discovery and diagnostic testing and as chemical detectors to identify safer agrochemicals to aid food production and trace detection of biohazards. Moreover, in the laboratory setting these devices will redefine the state-of-the-art in sensing, detecting with a sensitivity and stability that has never been achieved at room temperature to allow new phenomena such as the emergent behaviour of nanoassemblies and current unreachable reactions (e.g. photocatalytic conversion of CO2) to be tracked. The scope of diamond quantum sensors is immense and my current work focusses on the translation of this technology into devices for use by non-specialists to deliver previously unimaginable capabilities touching all aspects of our lives. Indeed, sensors are ubiquitous with our modern lives and quantum sensors are set to redefine the limits of what is and isn't measurable. Moreover, this work will unlock new applications for diamond-based quantum sensors feeding into high-performance markets and sectors including healthcare, food security, advanced materials, defence and battery technology.
The aim of my work is to move existing quantum sensing instrumentation from complex assemblies to integrated devices suitable for adoption by non-specialists. This work aims at enhancing the measurement speed and sensitivity of diamond quantum sensors, establishing customised sensing methods and engineering prototype devices.
A Diamond Quantum Sensing hub has been launched to catalyse new opportunities for collaboration, facilitate access to specialist skills, knowledge, equipment and new technologies to help the sector innovate and grow. This hub will provide opportunities for future engineers to train alongside developers, integrators and users of quantum technologies. A connected and engaged engineering community will tackle the challenges and opportunities emerging diamond-based quantum sensing technologies offer. This will provide an effective mechanism to democratise quantum technologies and bring new people into the field leading to a step change in the diversity of the workforce. Ultimately this research programme seeks to make quantum technologies easier to adopt by bringing together families of UK strength and opportunity (e.g. advanced materials and manufacturing; electronics, photonics and quantum) to demonstrate how quantum sensors can solve real-world challenges.