Meet the team

We are a multidisciplinary team of students and scientists at the University of Sheffield, collaborating to design and build RoboPlant under the umbrella of Project Sunshine. To contact us, please email, or tweet us @roboplantshef.

Monifa Phillips


I just finished my 3rd year of Physics at the University of Sheffield, and I’ll be graduating in 2014 with a master in Physics before I start my graduate programme at TeachFirst. Excited! One of the many reasons the Roboplant project appealed to me is that it would be used for access to higher education. I believe it’s important to enthuse children and young people about science. The prospect of making science fun whilst also ensuring children are knowledgeable about important science topics such as renewable energy was an attractive challenge, especially as I plan on going into teaching myself. Working as an interdisciplinary team has been really enjoyable so far, as everyone is full of ideas and supportive of other people.  I’m just excited to see the end product!

Murtaza Lukmanjee


I have just completed my second year of Mechanical Engineering having a year to go before I start the European Masters in Renewable Energy and join the rest of my colleagues who are all Bachelors of Science at the moment. I have been interested in solar technology as well as other renewables for quite some time now, having had some experience working at a solar installation company in Sri Lanka. Within this project I am mainly involved in giving my expertise on the mechanical side of the RoboPlant, carrying out relevant calculations with regard to power usage of the technology used within the plant leading to the careful selection of a battery, solar controller etc. I also am looking at the possibility of a solar tracker or the use of a stepper motor in order to make the leaves of the plant move, which proves to be a challenging task! Working with such a diverse team has proved to be great fun so far.

James Ord


Born in Cambridge many summers ago, I came to Sheffield in 2010 to study biology. I have now completed my Bachelors degree, and will be heading to Lancaster to study for a Masters degree later in 2013. I am fascinated by evolutionary processes, and am particularly interested in how living systems can be utilised to benefit mankind in novel ways. My role in the design team is to provide ideas based on my biological expertise, and I will also be helping to piece together the wider story of why RoboPlant is important. I was initially attracted to the project because of my passion for science communication and the environment, and I think an undertaking like this could really help stimulate public interest in plant science and renewable energy technologies – if we pull it off, that is!

Alex Stockham


After 3 years of studying chemistry I’m now a Bachelor of Science (an idea I’m still getting used to). My next pursuit will earn me the credentials to be a Master of Science, specialising in Science Communication. The intricacies, complexities and beauty of science fascinate me. I think that an understanding of its interpretations of reality would be great for everyone, which is why I want to communicate it to the world. I’m part of the design team creating RoboPlant. My role in this project involves providing  knowledge on the physical science behind the processes in our creation, and also contributing to how those processes are communicated. I’m currently working on the design of an electrolysis system, which is proving difficult due to the dangers of handling rocket fuel.

Elspeth Kenny


I have just finished my degree in biology, and am starting my PhD on the behaviour and ecology of guillemots in October. I am responsible for how RoboPlant will be used most effectively at schools, science festivals, community events and the Christmas Lecture in December. I am helping to design and practise associated demonstrations, researching how both children and adults view photosynthesis and the importance of plants, and promoting our project by this blog!

University of Sheffield Academic and technical staff:

Dr. Colin Osborne


Plant Biologist (Department of Animal and Plant Sciences) whose lab group foucses on Evolutionary and Environmental Physiology.

Dr. Alastair Buckley


Physicist working with the Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials Group (Department of Physiscs and Astronomy).

Dr. Julia Weinstein


Senior lecturer in Physical Chemistry (Department of Chemistry). The main focus of Julia’s research is the chemical approach to solar energy conversion.

Dr. Jose Mawyin


Physicist working with the Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials Group (Department of Physiscs and Astronomy).

Simon Dixon


Technician in the Physics and Chemistry workshop


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