Dr Beth Willneff

Dr Beth Willneff


I am a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Design working with partners in industry, academica and the heritage sector on applications of X-ray spectroscopies to understand material properties at a molecular or atomic level and their relationship to bulk material properties and performance with an emphasis on studies under in situ or operando conditions. In the context of art and design, I use materials as a focal point for bridging actual and perceived divides in pedagogy and practice in the arts, sciences and engineering.


  • Vesatile X-ray Spectroscopy Facility (VXSF) Manager
  • Please enquire about XPS via vxsf@leeds.ac.uk.

Research interests

My research interests listed below cover materials and X-ray spectroscopy. A common theme is understanding how surface and interfacial chemistry relates to the properties of an entire bulk object e.g. visual, chemical or mechanical. I investigate materials, in collaboration with industrial and academic partners, which are seemingly dissimilar when viewed from the perspective of their application or bulk form but which are often similar at a molecular or elemental level.

  • practices: heritage science, conservation science, surface analysis, 'gaps' (e.g pressure, material, discipline), catalysis
  • analysis: X-ray spectroscopy, XPS, XANES, NEXAFS, EXAFS, synchrotron-based analytical methods, operando/in situ analysis
  • materials: coating, paint, textile, additive, crystal, polymorph, pigment, surfactant, plastic
  • processes: crystallisation, catalysis
  • scale: nanometre, molecule, element, surface, bulk

This work is delivered through independent research and the Versatile X-ray Spectroscopy Facility. The VXSF is based in the the Bragg Centre for Materials Research at the University of Leeds and is part of the atoms-to-devices hub of the Henry Royce National Institute for Advanced Materials Research and Innovation in the UK . I have also done studies at various national and international research facilities including the APS, Diamond Light Source and the NSLS.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD University of Manchester
  • MSc Free University Berlin
  • BA Northwestern University

Student education

I support teaching in modules with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) context, supervise UG dissertations and PhD theses. My teaching practice uses materials as a focal point for bridging actual and perceived divides in pedagogy and practice in the arts, sciences and engineering.

Enquiries about possible postgraduate research collaborations are welcome in the following areas:

  • environmental X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP XPS)
  • multiscale science and engineering
  • fundamental research on practice and theory of soft X-ray spectroscopies
  • X-ray spectroscopies (XAS, XPS, NEXAFS, XANES)
  • linking science to art and design practice or heritage science
  • New Materialism

I currently supervise PGRs at PhD level in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Complex Particulate Products and Processes (CP3 CDT) and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecules to Product in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering

Research groups and institutes

  • Colour technology
  • Textile technology
  • Design history and material culture
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>