18 November, 2021
Principal Investigator, Professor Eric Le Ru from Victoria University of Wellington has been awarded the Hector Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for his world-leading research in analytical chemistry at the nanoscale using surface-enhanced spectroscopies.
The Hector Medal is awarded annually in chemical science, or physical sciences or mathematical and information sciences for work of great scientific or technological merit that has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the particular branch of science. The medal will not normally be awarded in the same discipline two years in a row.
Professor Le Ru’s research is renowned in the fields of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), single-molecule detection, nano-photonics with a particular emphasis on plasmonics (the study and applications of the optical properties of sub-wavelength metallic objects) and electromagnetic scattering. His research is concerned with electromagnetism at the nanoscale. A pioneer in the research field of how electromagnetic fields are enhanced around metallic nano-objects, how this changes the interactions between molecules and materials, and how this knowledge can allow molecules to be detected by vibrational spectroscopy techniques. This knowledge is leading to the creation of next-generation biosensors based on new physics and chemistry.
His sustained contribution to these fields over the last 15 years, with over 130 publications, span both theoretical and experimental studies and this interplay has been a particular strength of his work. He has written some of the most influential papers in SERS, notably on SERS enhancement factors (he wrote one of the most cited non-review articles in the field), the electromagnetic theory of SERS, and single molecule detection in SERS. The bi-analyte SERS technique he developed to study single-molecule SERS is now used by groups worldwide.
His 2009 book on SERS, a comprehensive research monograph co-authored with Pablo Etchegoin, has become the standard reference for SERS researchers and students around the world.
Professor Le Ru's work has had an exceptional international impact, SERS currently attracts the attention of thousands of research groups worldwide. He is one of the most highly cited physicists in New Zealand. All his work has been carried out in Aotearoa New Zealand between 2004 and today, starting in close collaboration with Pablo Etchegoin. The selection panel noted that Professor Le Ru has put New Zealand on the global stage in these intensely competitive and important fields.
I am delighted to be awarded the Hector Medal, it is a great honour to be associated with such an illustrious list of past recipients, two of which deserving a special mention here for all the support they have given me: Prof. Sir Paul Callaghan and Prof. Richard Blaikie. I am also grateful for the continuous support I have received from the Victoria University of Wellington, the MacDiarmid Institute, and Royal Society. Finally, the work rewarded by this medal wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of many students and my close collaboration with Professor Pablo Etchegoin, my mentor, colleague, and friend, until his untimely death in 2013.Professor Eric Le Ru MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator Professor of Physics Victoria University of Wellington