RMS Vice Presidents' Award

The Vice President's Award recognises the 'unsung heroes' of microscopy - the engineers, technicians or laboratory research support scientists.

How to submit a nomination:

  • Applicants may self-nominate or be nominated by a colleague or collaborator. 
  • Applicants/nominators should submit a brief letter of support (maximum length 1 page) along with letters of support from two other individuals.  These additional letters of support may be from the same institution as the nominator or nominee. 
  • Nominations should be submitted to Debbie Hunt.
  • Nominations will be considered by the Vice Presidents.

The deadline for the 2024 RMS Vice Presidents' Award nominations was 29 February 2024. 

2023 Winner

Dr Robert Harniman

School of Chemistry, Bristol University

Rob Harniman.jpg

Rob is a well-known and respected expert at Bristol University and beyond, as a point-of-reference for AFM.  He is renowned for his application of advanced force microscopy skills, his innovations, original project ideas and his thoroughly positive, ‘can-do’ spirit. His collaborations have resulted in over 80 publications, with 17 in Science and Nature journals, with an h-index of 32.

Rob has led the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) facility at Bristol University’s School of Chemistry for the last 11 years, making it a highly respected hub for the technique. He has driven AFM as an interdisciplinary platform, collaborating across the Schools of Chemistry, Physics, Earth Sciences, Medical Sciences, and the Faculties of Life Sciences and Engineering.

Rob has steered the addition of new capabilities within the AFM facility to broaden the relevance of the technique, and secured funding for a range of new projects and interdisciplinary collaborations, both local and international.

In addition to his extremely rich portfolio of skills in force microscopy, Rob has also been heavily involved in the development of new instrumentation. This has been influential in several areas including photothermal and photoradiative cantilever drives, and perhaps most significantly, through vertically-oriented probe (VOP) force microscopy.  Rob designed and built the first high-speed non-contact VOP microscope, achieving remarkable resolution imaging molecular ultra-structure.  The unique balance of sensitivity and control in VOP microscopy was also essential in the world-first direct measurement of the spin-momentum of photons, a fundamental quantum force. Rob’s contributions were vital in the adaptation of vertical probe microscopy to measure this effect and prove the physical existence of the Belinfante momentum.

Rob’s experience across a range of fields at the nanoscale has not only enabled him to invent new techniques in applications such as the nano-templating of diamond, but also enriches the teaching environment at the University.   In the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, he has developed and supervised numerous interdisciplinary Masters projects where AFM forms the core in technological development or characterisation of unique materials.  During the Covid lockdown, he developed innovative datamining projects for Masters students, with such success that these projects were successful to the point they are now a regular feature in the School syllabus. 

2022 Winner:

Ms Xiangli Zhong

Senior Experimental Officer in the School of Materials, University of Manchester

Xiangli Zhong.jpg

Xiangli has developed a long track-record of outstanding contributions to the microscopy community for many years, and her exemplary engagement in RMS activities have had a continuous impact on microscopy research and the microscopy community.

As leader of the RMS FIB- Focused Interest Group and the UK FIB & EM Preparation User Group since 2013, she has been engaged in numerous activities to promote the good use and expansion of focused ion beam (FIB) facilities in the UK.

She has successfully organised multiple sessions and workshops on volume microscopy and FIB related-sessions at the mmc congresses and chaired multiple FIB related-sessions at other national and international conferences. She has also served for several years as an active member of the RMS Engineering and Physical Sciences Committee.

As Coordinator of the University of Manchester Ion Beam Tech Forum, she has developed a vital role to shape the FIB and scanning electron microscopy facilities by e.g. spearheading remote operation of FIB. This was essential for continued operation during the COVID lockdowns, and has paved the way for future FIB usage schemes and the upcoming purchase of cryo-FIB equipment at Manchester.

Her rich experience and dedication to EM management, training and promotion of user communication is exemplified by her initiation and implementation of much needed Standard Operation Procedures (SOP’s) in training and application. Xiangli promotes the use of ‘classical’ Materials Science sample preparation and characterisation techniques in the Life Sciences, which is further underpinned by collaborations across the Physical Sciences and Life Science boundary. 

Xiangli has authored and co-authored more than 60 peer reviewed publications in key and high-impact-factor journals - many of them of specific interest for the larger scientific community.

Previous Winners 

2021 - Judith Mantell 2021 - Judith Mantell

Judith is a well-known and respected figure in the UK EM community. She has been the senior electron microscopist of the Wolfson Bioimaging Facility at the University of Bristol since the establishment of the facility.

Having initially spent time with microscopy suppliers such as Philips and Oxford Instruments, she joined the facility in 2007 and was instrumental in the set-up of the new EM unit, together with Paul Verkade.

Colleagues have praised Judith for her patience and dedication in keeping the EM unit afloat, and for her expert knowledge as a teacher – qualities she has also deployed to great effect on RMS courses, and as a member of the organising committee of the Cryo Microscopy Group. 

During her time at Bristol, she has helped establish the EM unit as a highly regarded facility,
introducing new techniques such as STEM tomography and cryo SEM. She has been an author on more than 50 research papers, for which the EM provided by Judith has often been the critical piece of evidence lifting the impact of the research.

In 2016, Bristol was awarded a Wellcome grant to set up a new dedicated cryo EM facility.
Selflessly, Judith was instrumental in the design, installation, and initial running of the facility – despite the fact she would not be directly involved going forward.

RMS Vice Presidents Dr Peter O’Toole and Professor Susan Anderson said: “It is our great pleasure to announce Judith Mantell as winner of this award, which celebrates the achievements of the ‘unsung heroes’ of microscopy. Judith is quite evidently a major asset to her facility and all those that she has helped and taught both internally and external to Bristol.

Her expertise has not only elevated the quality of research being carried out, but also continues to earn the respect of colleagues across the EM community. We are delighted to be able to take this opportunity to acknowledge these often unseen efforts.” 

2020 - Kevin Smith 2020 - Kevin Smith

Kevin has been involved in materials microscopy for over 40 years. During that time - particularly at CML (GEC) Whetstone, and Alcan International Banbury - he provided and developed microscopical support for a broad range of projects and scientific personnel.

He has trained numerous staff in the many aspects of microscopy - covering SEM, TEM, EPMA as well as optical microscopy – and provided technical support in sample preparation.

At Buehler UK in Coventry, he ran the European Customer Support Laboratory, passing on his knowledge through numerous training courses in several countries. During this time the quality of his photomicrography was recognised by various international imaging competitions and numerous prizes.

Having moved on to a career in sales and technical support for MetPrep, Kevin became responsible for all aspects of microscopy and preparation, as well as his sales role.

He was also responsible for setting up the company’s first training courses for customers in the UK which became a key part of its success and growth. His later positions at IMAS (Zeiss) and Olympus - again in a sales role - allowed him to develop his techniques and demonstrate to others how to solve their microscopy applications.

At Olympus he was responsible for all materials microscopy across the UK, including laser-scanning confocal applications and high-end image analysis techniques. With this, again, came large amounts of customer training and support.

Since returning to Metprep several years ago he has single-handedly rewritten the company’s training courses on materials microscopy and materials preparation. Delegates of all levels, and covering both industry and academia attend these courses.

In 2003 Kevin was made an Accredited Imaging Scientist and an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. A year later he was awarded Fellowship based on his scientific imaging. He was also awarded the Barnard Certificate of Excellence in Photomicrography by the Quekett Microscopical Society.

Kevin has recently spent several years researching his now completed RMS Diploma - The Role of Microscopy in the Preparation and Examination of Metallographically prepared Materials. His work is being used to help people develop their understanding of both materials preparation and the use of contrast techniques in obtaining more information from their samples. This has proved hugely successful for both MetPrep and its customers.

Kevin's efforts and passion have proved most effective in promoting a greater understanding of microscopy and its application in Metallography. This applies in particular for those just starting a career in materials microscopy.

He continues to be recognised in international photomicrography competitions and his continued passion for microscopy and preparation is being passed on to people on a daily basis through his regular interaction with customers in the field.

2019 - Dr Ian Dobbie 2019 - Dr Ian Dobbie

Dr Dobbie has made a unique and outstanding contribution to both running the Oxford-wide Micron imaging facility, as well as carrying out internationally competitive microscopy technology development research into super-resolution microscopy and its ease of use. Ian’s work has had a major impact on the RMS community in the UK, in addition to his service to the community in organising facility managers conferences, contributions to Euro-bioimaging and training researchers and facility managers from other Universities and Research Institutes in super-resolution.

Ian has lead Micron’s development of the latest generation of SIM instruments in collaboration with the originators of the technology, Profs. John Sedat and David Agard at UCSF, San Francisco. This collaboration also lead to the same platform being used for Cryo-DSTORM experiments and more recently Cryo-SIM, in which Ian played a leading role. Ian has also lead a project to bring this technology to the Diamond Synchrotron to allow correlative super-resolution microscopy together with an X-ray microscope and advanced EM instruments at the Diamond site. These activities have not only meant that scientists across the UK are guaranteed access to such bespoke technology, but they also ensure that the UK remains internationally competitive in these difficult to implement sets of technologies. Moreover, Ian has lead Micron’s contribution to the Euro-bioimaging consortium, an effort which has meant that Micron guarantees access to all its instruments  to outsiders. Micron has been happy to do so, especially where we can make important contributions in sharing unique knowledge of bespoke super-resolution technologies.

In addition to his unique contributions to super-resolution technology research and development, Ian has made exemplary contribution to the Microscopy community. He was recently the organiser of the UK microscopy facilities management conference, hosted in Oxford. Further still, Ian has also lead Micron’s successful application to become a Euro- bioimaging hub.

2017 - Dr Sam McFadzean

Dr McFadzean moved to the University of Glasgow School of Physics and Astronomy in 1998 and since then has been indispensable to all those working in the department. After juggling his role with studying part time for his PhD, Dr McFadzean’s role has grown significantly down to the trust and reliability he demonstrates in all of his work.

As well as being responsible for the installation and upkeep of five major systems in the department, undertaking substantial managerial duties and the majority of the industrial contract work he is also advising and managing the IT infrastructure.

Dr McFadzean co-ordinated the technical aspects of the installation of the KNC’s most recent electron microscope and has been at the forefront of the customisation of the KNC’s instruments. Most notably, he was integral to the development of a fast electrostatic shutter that has subsequently been incorporated into every high-performance Electron Energy Loss Spectrometer sold by Gatan worldwide, and he has customised the hardware used for differential phase contrast electron microscopy leading to work was recently published with Dr McFadzean as a co-author.

2015 - Kim Findlay 2015 - Kim Findlay

Kim manages the BioImaging Facility at the John Innes Centre and is recognised for her outstanding contributions to electron microscopy, particularly in plant and microbial imaging. She is often at the forefront of proposals for new equipment at the Centre and will train new users on these advanced and complex instruments. When the John Innes Centre relocated in 2007, Kim designed the new Bioimaging Facility and supervised the successful move, retaining the world-class standard she has helped the facility achieve. She has an active input in numerous scientific projects and has made important and long-standing contributions to Streptomyces research. Her images have been shortlisted a number of times in Scientific Imaging Competitions and she recently organised a brand new RMS Course, a Basic Introduction on how to colour EM Images using Photoshop which was incredibly well received by all the delegates. She is equally active in Outreach activities, and runs school tours, demonstrations and the ‘Inside Science’ annual workshops for gifted science students. She has also previously appeared on a special episode of Gardener’s World and wrote a popular article ‘The Science of Attraction’ for the Financial Times magazine. 

Kim is recognised by her colleagues and supervisors as going above and beyond her role at the John Innes Centre and is always willing to help, advise and enthuse not only colleagues and those she trains but also the general public and young students, inspiring the next generation of microscopists.