Former PhD student who worked on polyelectrolyte brushes, and was also a member of the PolyFilm Framework 6 Research Training Network.
Photograph of Rita La Spina.

Rita La Spina is from Catania in Sicily, where she studied Chemistry. When she arrived in June 2005, she spoke so little English, she would have failed by some distance the University's minimum English Entrance Requirements. However, when it comes to recruiting talented students, one cannot be stopped by mere rules. She is pictured here with a home-built kit for measuring the contact diameter between polyelectrolyte gels and brushes. Originally developped by Lorena Ruiz-Pérez, Rita has further developed this innovation into a very reliable and easy means of measuring adhesion, and has applied it to the switchable adhesion between oppositely charged polyelectrolytes. As part of her Ph.D. work Rita spent five months at the Max-Planck Institut für Metallforschung in Stuttgart in a collaboration with Professor Stanislav Gorb, who is now at the Universität Kiel. Her paper in Angewandte Chemie earned her recognition and a prize for the best student paper of the Polymer Physics Group of the Institute of Physics. On Tuesday March 30, 2010 Rita successfully defended her thesis before her examiners, Professor John Watts (University of Surrey) and Dr Peter Mills (Cytec Specialty Chemicals). As a staff candidate, Rita was required to have two external examiners. A local co-ordinator was appointed, Emeritus Professor Frank Jones of the Department of Engineering Materials.

Switchable adhesion

Max-Planck Institut für Metallforschung Stuttgart


L. Alfhaid, R. La Spina, M. R. Tomlinson, A. R. Hall, W. D. Seddon, N. H. Williams, F. Cousin, S. Gorb, and M. Geoghegan "Adhesion between oppositely charged polyelectrolytes" J. Adhes. 94 58-76 (2018)

R. La Spina, A. Chiche, M. R. Tomlinson, and M. Geoghegan "Development of a new underwater adhesive" Eur. Coat. J. 22-8 (2011)

R. La Spina, M. R. Tomlinson, L. Ruiz-Pérez, A. Chiche, S. Langridge, and M. Geoghegan "Controlling network-brush interactions to achieve switchable adhesion" Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 46 6460-3 (2007)

Oral presentations and awards

Physical Aspects of Polymer Science (PAPS09), Bristol, September 2009 (Invited presentation in honour of winning the best student paper prize of the Institute of Physics Polymer Physics Group)

Polyfilm: Confined Polymer Films, Sheffield, September 2008

Adhesion Society Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, February 2008

Toward Next Generation Materials International Symposium, Strasbourg, January 2007

DAAD scholarship to work at the MPI Stuttgart, September 2008-February 2009

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