Dr Radha Boya
Winner: 2020 Marlow Award
University of Manchester
For contributions to creating Angstrom-scale atomically smooth capillaries from two-dimensional materials and unravelling the properties of fluids under atomic-scale confinement.
Celebrate Dr Radha Boya
Tiny pipes or capillaries which can allow flow of fluids through them have interesting mass transport properties when the size of the pipe itself approaches the molecular size. When matter is confined in such ultra-thin pipes, their properties and transport are expected to be quite different from those more familiar in the macroscopic world.
Dr Boya’s research group make two-dimensional slit-like capillaries which are atomic-scale rectangular pipes, by assembling one atom thin sheets in a layer-by-layer fashion. Water moves fast (velocity ~ 1 metre/second) through these capillaries whereas ions such as Na+ and Cl- are not able to pass through. The group explore this unique size selective filtration capability of Å-scale capillaries to investigate fundamental mechanisms of steric exclusion of molecules and ions. Their experiments improve the understanding of molecular transport at the atomic scale and suggest further ways to replicate the mass transport functions of the remarkable machinery of living cells, for example protein channels where the water and ion transport happen at a single molecule level.Read full biography
Dr Radha Boya is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester. Her primary research interest relates to ultimately narrow capillaries made by effectively removing a single atomic plane from a bulk layered crystal. These capillaries with atomically smooth walls are only several angstroms (Å) tall and can transport molecules one layer at a time.
After completing her PhD in India, Dr Boya secured a series of highly prestigious international research fellowships. She was awarded with Indo-US pre- and postdoctoral fellowships in 2012 to work at Northwestern University, USA. In 2014, Radha relocated to the UK with Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship held at the University of Manchester. She was awarded a Leverhulme early career fellowship in 2016, a Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw fellowship from the University of Manchester in 2017, and a Royal Society University Research fellowship in 2018. In 2019, Dr Boya secured an ERC starting grant to work on confinement induced molecular structure dynamics and molecular separation. She has published 46 research papers, including in Nature and Science journals. She was named as a UNESCO L’Oréal-women in science UK fellow, International Rising Talent as well as being recognized as an inventor in a global list of “Innovators under 35” by MIT Technology Review.
Dr Boya established her research group at the University of Manchester in 2016 which now consists of five PhD students and four post-doctoral researchers. Her group focuses on investigating the mass transport of ions, gases and water through angstrom-scale confined channels.
Who or what has inspired you?
The story of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and her discoveries with unwavering passion towards science.
What motivates you?
The challenges and adventures of new discoveries, critical thinking and its role in scientific pursuit and the creativity and passion emerging out of science.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
Pursuing what you love is a reward all on its own. Take up the opportunities early on to get exposure to research and scientific methodology, such as an internship or a research project. This will help you decide in a practical way whether a career in science is a way forward.
Why do you think interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science?
Working with a team of experts who have mutually exclusive skills and expertise puts a refreshing perspective to the scientific problems. Interdisciplinary collaboration is the key to many modern science discoveries.
What is your favourite element?
Having worked extensively with Au (gold), Pd (palladium) and now carbon for few years, it is a tough choice among these three. Nevertheless, if I had to choose only one, gold would be my favourite.