Future Leaders Fellowships awarded for 3D-printed space mirrors

Dr Carolyn Atkins (Credit: UK ATC/STFC)

Dr Carolyn Atkins, Research Scientist at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh is awarded a Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF).

The programme, from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), supports the next generation of talented people in their field. Carolyn’s research is focused on methods to 3D-print lightweight mirrors for telescopes in space – when weight and volume limits are critical.

Investing in the future

Carolyn explains what the UKRI FLF will enable her to achieve:

I consider the FLF to be career-defining. It allows me the opportunity to pursue a new field of research in its infancy, and to take a leadership role to develop it.

Through sustained funding, I will be able to drive the momentum needed to work towards our ultimate goal – which is to have 3D-printed mirrors, and other 3D-printed components, routinely used within space-based hardware.

I will be able to build a cohesive team, as well as hire and train a number of students – so that we upskill our future talent in the field too.

Professor Gillian Wright, Director, UK ATC, says of Carolyn’s achievement:

I am absolutely delighted that Carolyn has been awarded the FLF. At the UK ATC we design and build instruments that continually push the boundaries of astronomy research. As host institute we will support Carolyn with expertise and laboratory resources – all accessible on site.

We are excited too, about how Carolyn’s work could inform new methodologies for our future astronomical and space-based instrumentation programme.

Supporting UK talent

The 101 fellows, based at UK universities and businesses, will be supported through an investment of £109 million. The FLF scheme is designed to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across the UK.

UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years.

The grant supports challenging and novel projects, and the development of the fellow’s career. The funding can also used to support team members, their development, and pay for equipment and other needs.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with freedom and support to drive forward transformative new ideas and the opportunity to learn from peers right across the country.

The fellows announced today illustrate how the UK continues to support and attract talented researchers and innovators across every discipline to our universities and businesses, with the potential to deliver change that can be felt across society and the economy.

Further information

  • UK ATC is one of the UK’s national labs within the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) – part of UKRI.
  • Technically, 3D-printing is referred to as additive manufacturing (AM), which describes how material is added in layers from a digital design file.
  • The FLF allows Carolyn to build on the fundamental research that she has been doing through international and national collaborations with a number of academic partners, as well as with Departments within STFC:- Diamond Light Source
    – STFC’s RAL Space
    – STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory
    – Sheffield University
    – Durham University
    – National Physical Laboratory

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