Reflections from the SESAME Scholarship Programme: Neama Imam

Reflections from the SESAME Scholarship Programme: Neama Imam

image: Researcher Neama Imam in the Balder beamline control room.


The Swedish Institute (SI) offered a scholarship-based training programme at MAX IV in 2019 for researchers from the eight Middle Eastern countries affiliated with SESAME—Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East—light source located in Jordan. During the autumn, two visiting researchers participated in the programme for practical learning, experience, and knowledge exchange with MAX IV colleagues and beamline users.

MAX IV interviewed the candidates, Neama Imam and Saeed Saedy, about their experiences and thoughts on the training.

Neama Imam is an associate professor of nanotechnology and beamline user with X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (XAFS) techniques from Egypt who participated in the programme from August through November. She currently works in the Chemical Physics Division at Lund University with researcher Jens Uhlig and has practical training at Balder beamline.

Neama’s research focus is on nanomaterials preparation and characterization. Her background includes synchrotron-based beamline instrumentation and alignment, data acquisition, sample preparation, as well as data analysis, modelling, and theoretical calculations for X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectra.


Why were you interested in the scholarship training opportunity at MAX IV?

My current interest is in nanotechnology and its reflection in our life for solving our world challenges, such as energy crises. These challenges can be tackled by novel technologies based on the ‎tailoring and development of nanomaterials that can be fully ‎characterized due to the remarkable properties of synchrotron radiation.

My training at Lund University and MAX IV entails improving my XAFS data analysis skills and learning XAFS calculations, modelling and simulation. I work with gradient core shell cadmium selenide/zinc sulfide (CdSe/ZnS) quantum dot structures.

It is amazing to have an XAFS spectrum at a certain absorption edge where different absorbing atom compounds are actually contributing in this spectrum. With the help of XANES calculations using FEFF or FDMNES code and linear combination analysis we can trace the formation of different compounds in the gradient core shell quantum dots structure. Understanding the local and electronic structure of such quantum dots will give us a deeper understanding and explanation of their optical properties in order to enhance their use in solar cell and lighting applications.


image: Neama Imam working at Balder beamline


What knowledge have you gained from the programme?

The most important point here is that I have learned a beneficial style of scientific thought from Jens Uhlig. This will enable me to solve different scientific issues in my research work particularly in XAFS science, technique, and data analysis.

I have attended nice lectures about XAFS science and technique from the Balder staff and had training at the Balder beamline with XAFS, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray emission spectroscopy (XES) based on synchrotron radiation. It was also possible to measure copper oxide (CuO) and cuprous oxide (Cu2O) as training samples. In that I train in analysis of X-ray spectra with the focus on modelling the complex environment of quantum dots with gradient layers, this programme fit my aims in the best possible way.

One challenge I faced was to learn modelling, simulation, XAFS calculations (a lot of software and codes) and then apply everything in the analysis of X-ray spectra of the complex environment of quantum dots with gradient layers in only four months. A very short time. I succeeded in this intensive training with very focused study.

In addition, I had a very good learning experience with XAFS technique, science at X-ray facilities, and data analysis during summer school at Max IV in cooperation with Uppsala University. In September, I attended the 31th Max IV User Meeting, where I heard about the different beamlines at Max IV based on soft and hard X-ray energies.

I’ve become part of an incredible scientific network in the Chemical Physics Division, which provides a great opportunity for an amazing cultural and science exchange. I have gotten to know and become friends with many people from all over the world. Thanks to Max IV, SESAME, Lund University, the Chemical Physics Division, and the Atomic Energy Authority of Egypt.


What advice would you give other researchers about the experience at MAX IV?

It is very nice to have such a fellowship at the most brilliant synchrotron in the world and at one of the top universities, Lund University. My advice is to try to arrange with people at Max IV before starting to have beamtime there to measure your own samples during the beginning of your training period as this requires an application for beamtime. I’m sure that with increasing standardization and operationality of the beamlines the access will become easier.


What are your plans after the programme?

I will return to work at the Atomic Energy Authority of Egypt. However, soon after I will go to the Elettra synchrotron in Italy as a group leader in the LAAAMP Project (Lightsources for Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Middle East Project) and do experiments at the XAFS beamline there.

The new experience that I gained at Max IV and Lund University will enable me to understand more and use SESAME XAFS and XRF beamlines very easily and will empower me to analyse data with new points of view based on my acquired skills. I will also transfer this knowledge to my colleagues at SESAME and everywhere.