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The Chris Fell Award goes to USyd PhD student Sophie Cottam!

In the history of ANFF, few individuals have had the long-lasting impact of Emeritus Professor Chris Fell, who was instrumental in the establishment of the ANFF organisation in 2007 as one of nine original research facilities in the Commonwealth’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS). He was the organization’s first director and served as Chair of the Board for 11 years. Chris understood the importance of accessing micro- and nanofabrication equipment, and he also realised that research infrastructure and the expertise to use it would become critical to supporting the future growth and development of Australia’s scientific community.

In memory of Emeritus Professor Chris Fell, former Board Chair

Throughout his career, Prof Fell was generous in providing support, guidance and his time to those starting and continuing to develop their career in our industry. Therefore, after his unfortunate passing in 2022, the ANFF Board resolved to establish a $2,000 award in his name for the best early- or mid-career researcher (EMCR) presentation at the ANFF Annual Research Showcase. 

The Chris Fell Award presentation (l to r): CEO Jane Fitzpatrick, Board Chair Andrew Brawley and Sophie Cottam

‘ANFF is grateful to be able to honour our colleague and friend in this way. It is fitting for this award to encourage a young member of our community, just like Chris did throughout his distinguished career,’ said ANFF CEO Dr Jane Fitzpatrick.

The 2024 inaugural winner of The Chris Fell Award is Sophie Cottam for her presentation on ‘Laser-induced graphitisation of nano-films for in-vitro cell culture platforms.’

Sophie Cottam is a PhD student at the University of Sydney supervised by Professor Marcela Bilek and Dr Clara Tran. Sophie obtained her Bachelor of Science (Physics) and Bachelor of Mathematics (Pure) from the University of Newcastle, where she worked on projects involving radiation sensing and organic photovoltaics. Sophie’s PhD research focuses on developing conductive biocompatible coatings, creating a novel interface for in-vitro electrophysiological cell culture platforms using plasma deposited nano-films and laser treatment.

Sophie expressed her gratitude for receiving the Chris Fell Award, saying ‘It is a huge honour and motivates me to continue to deeply explore fabrication fundamentals and applications. The ongoing support and encouragement from the ANFF network have been crucial in not only my PhD research, but also to the development of my personal understanding and approach to microfabrication processes. Working with ANFF equipment and staff at both the University of Macquarie OptoFAB Node and NSW Node has rapidly progressed my research and is yielding some exciting results!’

Our hope is that this award in memory of Prof Chris Fell will continue to inspire excellence and innovation in the early- and mid-career researchers using ANFF facilities and encourage them to share their discoveries with our network and beyond.