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profile8euJuly/August 2017 | MicroscopyandAnalysisthe go-to person if you want to know something about a type of material, or process," he says. "But my real fascination has been about making connections; I like to see things in one area and apply this to another, or work with people with different skills to do something new."Beyond X-rays and neutronsWith his research and facilities, thriving, Withers received the biannual Royal Society Armourers and Brasiers' Company Prize in 2010 to recognise his pioneering use of neutron and hard X-ray beams to map stresses and image defects in industry-scale components.But X-rays and neutrons have not been enough. Around this time, Withers also started to look at combining X-ray imaging with electron imaging, in a process he calls 'Correlated Tomography'."X-rays can do certain things – they cover time and different length-scales from the metre to tens of nanometres – but the electron microscope allows us to go even finer," he explains. "Biologists have already developed correlative microscopy by combining optical and electron microscopy, and basically we're extending what they've done to three dimensions."Still, as Withers points out, following a small volume of interest buried deep inside a material, as you move from one instrument to another, isn't easy.But thanks to significant research funding, he and colleagues have devised a correlative set-up combining X-ray computed tomography with serial section FIB-SEM, electron backscatter diffraction and TEM elemental analysis. In one example of their research, they used different techniques to study corrosion at different scales."We are able to study the mechanisms at each scale and develop strategies at atomic levels and coarser scales, to prevent corrosion and extend component life," explains Withers.His lab was also the first to exploit the milling capabilities of a plasma focused ion beam (FIB) and excise regions identified at a coarser scale for finer serial section section tomography (SST) in a electron microscope."This is rather like gaining a 3D image of a loaf of bread by cutting it up into many fine slices," says Withers. "It is paving the way to higher resolution serial section tomography on larger volumes."But advanced tomography aside, for Withers himself, the progress never stops. In 2012, he became the inaugural Director of the £64 million BP International Centre for Advanced Materials, (ICAM) working with Universities of Cambridge, Imperial and Illinois, to better understand and develop materials across the energy industry.Come 2014, his facility was awarded The Queen's Anniversary Prize in recognition of the impact, excellence and innovation in X-ray imaging. And during 2016 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, before becoming the first Regius Professor of Materials in the UK earlier this year.Recently, Withers has stepped down from the BP ICAM to steer the new £235 million Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials. As Chief Scientist, he will be leading researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London, as well as the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and National Nuclear Laboratory to drive advanced materials research forward for UK industry."I see the Royce as an opportunity to create a real buzz of people coming and going, discovering new things and working together," he says. "We will not be putting our resources in boxes and keeping them for ourselves; instead, we want people to be here, doing new things we hadn't anticipated they would be able to do."Looking to the future, Withers eagerly awaits the wider use of free electron lasers. "These are the next generation of synchrotrons if you like, which will give us an even more intense way of looking at things," he says.And for up and coming researchers, he believes key global challenges should be tackled, and Materials Science lies at the heart of these."We need a safer world, a world where everyone has enough water and enough to eat, and a world where our use of energy doesn't damage the planet," he points out. "My suggestion to young scientists would be to ask, where can Materials Science make an impact?""And importantly, remember inspiration comes from many, many angles; so never be too precious to work with other people," he adds.blade, above left, Wide core fan blade being measured on ENGIN-X, in 2004 and recent research at ENGIN on an aerospace component, above rightwhipworm, below, Trichuris muris, a gut-dwelling whipworm that burrows its head end into the cells lining the intestinesCMYCMMYCYCMYK