MSc student bridges the fields of chemistry and physics

Posted on December 19, 2021

Ané Kritzinger, a master’s student in the Department of Chemistry, is bridging the fields of chemistry and physics to develop an ultra-sensitive instrument for pollutant detection. 

She works with optical tweezers that use tightly focused light to trap and manipulate microscopic particles and quantum dots semiconducting nanocrystals with attractive optical properties that make them suitable as analytical sensors. Her innovative research investigates the possibility of combining optical tweezers with fluorescence spectroscopy of quantum dots for pollutant detection.

Ané is supervised by Professor Patricia Forbes, whose research focuses on environmental monitoring and sensing. The optical tweezer setup is in the Structured Light Laboratory of her co-supervisor, Prof Andrew Forbes, at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Ané, who was awarded the James Moir medal from the South African Chemical Institute in 2020 for her academic achievements at honours level, has recently won prizes at national conferences in the chemistry and physics fields, where she presented her interdisciplinary MSc research. She received the award for the best MSc presentation in photonics at the annual conference of the South African Institute of Physics and was the runner-up for the best MSc flash talk at the South African Chemical Institute’s Young Chemists’ Symposium. Ané was also recently featured as a prestigious Trust Science Champion.

Ané noted that “even though these conferences were virtual, I got to know other people in my field, hear about the latest research in the country and improve my presentation skills. It was also great to have our work recognised by both the physics and chemistry communities.” 

She is seeing the benefits of collaborating with other disciplines, and she said, “it allows your research to reach a wider audience, results in more innovative solutions and inspires you to confront questions that may not otherwise occur to you.”

- Author Ané Kritzinger

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