SASKATOON – Every year the Canadian Light Source presents the G. Michael Bancroft PhD Thesis Award to a graduate student with the strongest published work using data collected at the synchrotron.

The award for the best published thesis during the 2013 calendar year has been given to Riccardo Comin, a PhD student and synchrotron researcher whose work focuses on correlated oxide materials and high-temperature superconductors.

“It’s a great honour. Being awarded the Bancroft thesis prize is a fantastic acknowledgement of the quality of my research and the many years of efforts and dedication to this fascinating project”, said Comin.

Comin, who recently graduated with a PhD in Physics from the University of British Columbia, conducts experiments on the soft X-ray REIXS beamline where he and CLS scientists investigated the tendency of mobile electrons in superconductors to arrange themselves into static, ordered pattern, in a wave-like fashion, instead of freely running around the material like they normally would in a metal.

“Clearly, such tendency is in competition with their willingness to otherwise “pair up” in the superconducting state, which requires electrons to be itinerant,” said Comin. “We demonstrated that this tendency is universal, and furthermore, we explored its microscopic behavior and phenomenology. The wealth of experimental information that our work at the CLS has brought to light will be fundamental for the engineering of better superconducting materials for prospective technological applications.”

Comin will receive the award and a $3,000 cash prize at the CLS Annual Users’ Meeting (May 1-2).

“We were fortunate to have many outstanding applicants this year, so the selection committee had a difficult job” said CLS Director of Research Tom Ellis. “Riccardo and the REIXS beamline team’s work on superconductors is ground-breaking and will have applications into the future of electrical conductivity for years to come. It’s this kind of research that really showcases the capabilities of the CLS synchrotron and our world-class scientists.” 

The award is named after Michael Bancroft, the founding CLS executive director, from 1999-2001. Bancroft is widely acknowledged as the driving force behind the creation of Canada’s national synchrotron facility. He received the CIC Montreal medal in 2002, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003, and is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario. 

“I would like to thank my supervisor at UBC, Andrea Damascelli, for his continuous guidance during my PhD project and for steering me into this exciting research direction,” added Comin.  “A very special mention also goes to George Sawatzky, for teaching me the tricks and the beauty of resonant X-ray methods and for further motivating me to pursue studies at the CLS; and last but not least, a heartfelt acknowledgement to REIXS beamline scientists Feizhou He and Ronny Sutarto who have done an instrumental job over the years by developing, maintaining, and upgrading the world-class REIXS facility.”  

Comin has recently joined the Sargent group at the University of Toronto as a post-doctoral fellow, where he will continue using advanced X-ray and photoelectron methods – also as a CLS user – to explore new, emerging nanostructured materials for energy-harvesting and optoelectronic applications.

(l-r) Research Associate Ronny Sutarto, Bancroft Award Winner and Researcher Riccardo Comin, and Staff Scientist Feizhou He at the REIXS beamline during superconductor experiments. 

Photo by Mark Ferguson, available for use in the CLS Flickr Gallery

About the CLS:

The Canadian Light Source is Canada’s national centre for synchrotron research and a global centre of excellence in synchrotron science and its applications. Located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, the CLS has hosted 1,700 researchers from academic institutions, government, and industry from 10 provinces and territories; delivered over 26,000 experimental shifts; received over 6,600 user visits; and provided a scientific service critical in over 1,000 scientific publications, since beginning operations in 2005.

CLS operations are funded by Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Western Economic Diversification Canada, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan.

Synchrotrons work by accelerating electrons in a tube to nearly the speed of light using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves. By manipulating the electrons, scientists can select different forms of very bright light using a spectrum of X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet light to conduct experiments.

Synchrotrons are used to probe the structure of matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces in order to develop more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help clean up mining wastes, to name a few applications.

For more information visit the CLS website 
For photos to accompany this story and more images from the CLS visit our Flickr gallery

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