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2023 IOP Technician Award: William Luckhurst

Higher Education and Further Education

William Luckhurst for outstanding technical support and leadership in the development of research infrastructure in King's College London, enabling generations of researchers to reach their potential across a range of disciplines.

William Luckhurst

William Luckhurst has been the backbone of experimental physics research in King's College London for over four decades, providing the highest level of technical support and training for many generations of researchers, keeping the research laboratories running safely and efficiently, and ensuring the provision of facilities to enable research of the highest quality.

A core element of Luckhurst's support for physics research has been the expertise he has gained in operating and maintaining state of-the-art equipment within the physics department's laboratories, in particular electron microscopy, thin film deposition, atomic force microscopy (AFM) and optical spectroscopy, supporting generations of research staff and students from across the university, as well as external users, with access and training for these techniques.

In particular, Luckhurst has enabled the provision of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) for an interdisciplinary group of researchers over several decades. This has required development of specialized approaches for the imaging of specific systems, enabling, for example, accelerated development of new nanoparticle systems and, by pushing SEM instrument resolution to its limits, structural characterization of a new class of optical metamaterial. More recently, he has been instrumental in establishing cathodoluminescence microscopy at King’s and, with his help, remarkable results have been obtained from nanoscale optical waveguides. For nearly 20 years, Luckhurst has also worked with the neighbouring Courtauld Institute of Art, for the application of SEM in the analysis of paintings, featuring in a BBC documentary.

Luckhurst is a wizard of AFM and, in addition to providing comprehensive training to generations of research students, his expertise and experience has been instrumental in the acquisition of some of the most challenging images. Of note recently is his introduction in the department of the conductive AFM modality, enabling swift progress in understanding the conductivity of nanostructures of interest.

He has enabled the development of countless new laboratories at King's and has played a key role working with project teams on several multimillion-pound laboratory refurbishment programmes during a period of significant growth for physics at the university, ensuring the delivery of high-quality laboratory space. In 2018, he was promoted to Technical Services Manager, managing a large team supporting both physics and engineering laboratories, during a period of major strategic growth. Most recently, he has taken a leading role in the development of new research and teaching space for the newly established engineering department.