Interview with Student Speech Award Winner Lara Gillan at the Summer School Event 2020

by Dirk Buchhauser

Lara Gillan was giving a speech at the Photovoltaic Summer School 2020 of the Southern Denmark University and the Technical Danish University and was awarded with the Best Student Speech Award. Beside a 100 pounds voucher for the Educational Program of the University of Cambridge, she is interviewed by us to present herself. Enjoy the interview…

My name is Lara Gillan, I am a PhD student under the supervision of Professor Dane McCamey in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. My research involves using electron spin resonance techniques to study the spin-dependent operation of organic and perovskite photovoltaics.

In my spare time I enjoy dancing and cheerleading.

Visit Lara at the Center of Excellence in Exciton Science at UNSW
Follow her on LinkedIn How was your experience in attending and presenting at the virtual PV Summer School Event?
Lara: I really enjoyed attending the virtual PV Summer School, which I found to be a very insightful experience. Coming from a more physics-y perspective, I was fascinated to learn more about researches being undertaken in the field of photovoltaics that weren’t solely focused on achieving record breaking efficiencies.

Keeping up with the time difference between Denmark and Australia was challenging, I found myself falling asleep in what would’ve been the afternoon sessions in Denmark. I tried to keep it fun by attempting to eat Danish food, I tried preparing smorrebrod and frikadeller.

Presenting virtually was an interesting experience, I really appreciated the opportunity to reflect on and share my work with others. I found the experience of presenting online to be surprisingly more nerve-wracking than in-person presentations I had given. Just before presenting I went for a walk outside since I was feeling a bit nervous, however the initial idea of presenting to the void passed and I was able to settle into the presentation feeling much more relaxed. Questions at the end of the presentation were a reassuring sign that there was life on the other end of the zoom call. I commend all of those who presented at the virtual PV Summer School for I did not find this to be an easy format for presenting, but as challenging as I found the experience, I was so glad I did it. What have you benefited from the most in this event?
Lara: This event was really beneficial in giving me a lot of insight and a broader understanding of the current state of photovoltaic research and made me feel reinvigorated and excited to tackle my own research project. 

I particularly enjoyed presentations about degradation mechanisms in organic photovoltaics and the various solutions that have been tested to overcome the issue of long-term stability. I was also unaware of bifacial solar panels and found this to be a very interesting area of research. It was truly inspiring to hear about existing photovoltaic installations across the world, and it puts the work of scientists and engineers improving the long-term performance of various photovoltaic technologies into societal perspective. You are working on OPV projects. What makes it exciting to work in that field?
: I find organic photovoltaics (OPV) to be a fascinating space to play in. It is particularly satisfying because the low atomic numbers of OPV constituents impart some strict spin-selection rules in their operation. This is exciting because it makes a fun playground to study electronic spin states in the context of an operating photovoltaic device. I most enjoy this because it affords me opportunity to tackle fundamental physics of electronic spin, while keeping my toe in the real world by working in the renewable energy space. What are your scientific passions? What would you like to do in the future?
Lara: Outside of my own research I am interested in climate change, it is part of what motivates me in this line of work. At this stage I would like to continue to work on renewable energy research in the future. Beyond this I am still very much unsure of what I would like to do in the future. For now, I really enjoy doing research and teaching, and have a keen interest in science communication. So, I plan to keep doing the things I enjoy and see where this takes me. What would you like to see happening in terms of next technological breakthroughs?
Lara: I’m always excited to see advancement in PV technologies in the news, there isn’t a particular technological breakthrough in the PV sector that I’m looking forward to. Renewables are at a point where their widespread use seems to be the most sensible course. I think a political shift that enables renewable energy sources to dominate energy generation would be more meaningful and impactful than anything which we can achieve in the lab. That being said, I’m excited to see what comes of Airbus’ plans to develop hydrogen combustion planes for commercial flights.

Thanks Lara for the interview and good luck and fun for your future career!

The Team

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