David Lockwood's Doctor of Science degree led him to advising the Canadian government. He reveals his memories of being a student at Edinburgh, including being a warden in Pollock Halls.
|Year of Graduation||
Your time at the University
I was drawn to Edinburgh by the international reputation of the Solid State Physics Research Group in the James Clerk Maxwell Building at the King’s Buildings campus. I spent an amazing six years with this group carrying out novel experiments that eventually lead to my DSc degree.
Even though I was not officially their supervisor, I worked extensively with several graduate students, which was most rewarding both academically and personally. I have maintained a beneficial contact with many of these colleagues over the past four decades. I also interacted with numerous undergraduate students during my tenure as a Sub-warden at the Pollock Halls of Residence. Watching over and helping these students develop their lives and careers was truly rewarding.
Pollock Halls exhibited a completely different “life” during the summer break, when the Halls were frequently occupied by attendees of national and international conferences. In the evenings, these attendees could be more rowdy and unpredictable than the usual term-time residents, which led to interesting events at times. Not that things never went wrong during term time either: events such as medical emergencies, for example, that required calls for doctors and ambulances. I will never forget one occasion when I was being threatened by a belligerent intoxicated resident and I was contemplating calling in help from the police. Fortunately, one of my house students came to my rescue. His reputation as a holder of a black belt in the martial arts was enough for my antagonist to quickly defuse and simply melt away into the surrounding crowd that had gathered!
The Edinburgh Festival and its associated Fringe Festival was a memorable highlight of each year – trying to decide with friends which events to attend before the show was sold out was always a tricky exercise. Also memorable were New Year’s Eve celebrations, where I had first-footing duties to perform throughout Edinburgh, and the annual Burn’s Night Suppers held at the Pollock Halls with all their pomp, pageantry, addresses, and toasting and the highland dancing that finished it all off.
Find out what area of human endeavour appeals to you most.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
After University, I found a position as a researcher with the Government of Canada. Thus my work is aimed at serving the Canadian public. I could not be sure I would take the same research path if I were to do it all over again. We do whatever the needs of Canadians require at the time and there are many choices that are made along the way. For example, I could have been contributing in large-scale energy issues rather than my present nanotechnology areas. Nevertheless, the university training I received as a physicist was quite general, and I have found that it has enabled me to develop the skills and learning abilities necessary to carry out a wide variety of experimental and theoretical tasks in many areas of science and engineering.
My doctoral thesis work solidified my expertise in investigating the optical properties of condensed matter. My subsequent research work has centred on the optical properties of low-dimensional materials at the nanoscale, and recently has focused on semiconductor nanodots and transition-metal magnetic nanowires and nanorings. The research is aimed at providing new technologies for improving the performance of devices involved in information communications (e.g. the internet) and information storage (rewritable digital memories), and developing quantum computers. I am systematically investigating the light emitting properties of silicon-germanium alloy and germanium nanodots and nanowires for applications in silicon photonics based on existing silicon integrated circuit technology. The characteristics of the luminescence obtained from these nanostructures can be readily altered through strain or band-gap-energy engineering, for example, by appropriately modifying their growth conditions. The overall aim is to produce an efficient light source from these materials that could be readily integrated into existing electronic integrated circuit fabrication processes.
From an experimental point of view, it is most fascinating and rewarding to see how we can characterize the physical properties of such tiny structures that are essentially invisible to the unaided eye. There are some techniques like transmission electron microscopy that can show you what they look like at almost atomic scale, but most optical techniques for example are essentially macroscopic. And yet we have been able to observe light emission at room temperature from a crystalline-silicon single layer just one nanometre (corresponding to eight atomic layers of silicon) thick! Our modern analysis tools are so sensitive. All this pioneering work has received wide recognition.
I would suggest first taking general humanities, science and/or engineering courses at university to find out what area of human endeavour appeals to you most, and then proceed to higher-degree training in that area: you should enjoy your learning/training. Finding a good supervisor and/or mentor is essential, so ask around.