2001-2006 Secondary School – Birley Community College, Sheffield. 2006-2008 6th Form – King Edward VII School, Sheffield. 2008-2012 Undergraduate degree (Masters) – Newcastle University. 2012-present PhD – Durham University.
13 GCSE’s. A level Maths, Chemistry and Physics. Masters in Chemistry (MChem). FA Level 1 football coaching.
I have worked in many different places. I started working when I was 14 in a climbing wall cafe and I have worked in pubs, bars and restaurants, TopShop, backstage at the Sheffield arena and even in a box packing factory.
A PhD is a full time job
Favourite thing to do in my job: I enjoy being able to solve problems.
I make new polymers that are designed to have different and interesting properties.
I am a synthetic polymer chemist. This means that I work in a laboratory and make polymers from the monomer starting materials. I am sponsored by an industrial company, this means that I work with them on every aspect of the project and they provide the funding. We have regular meetings where we talk about the work I’ve been doing, the work I plan to do and discuss any new ideas that we have. It is important to keep up to date with the current research that other scientists are doing so I look in scientific journals on the internet and read what kinds of things are being done. This can often give you ideas for your own research project, which is very useful. I look at using different monomers and different polymer forming reactions to produce new polymer materials. These polymer materials will hopefully have interesting and useful properties and could be used in products such as shampoo, medicines or even ink for printers.
My Typical Day
I work in the lab, doing reactions to make new polymers.
I get into the office at 9 am Monday to Friday and sometimes at weekends too if I have lots of work that needs doing. I have a desk in an office that is shared with other PhD students and this is where we do data analysis and general computer based work like writing reports, presentations and preparing posters. I spend most of my day in the lab doing lots of different reactions. Before you put on a reaction, you often need to purify your starting materials and collect the glassware you will need. Once I have done this, I can then put my reaction on. Many of my reactions are sensitive to moisture in the air and so I have to do the reactions in nitrogen. This sometimes makes it a little fiddly! When the reactions have finished, I then purify the product and analyse the pure product using techniques like nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, infrared (IR) spectroscopy and mass spectrometry and size-exclusion chromatography (SEC). Using these techniques together you build up evidence that you have made what you wanted to make and then you can test the different properties of the polymers.
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d set up a conference-style day for 16-18 year olds.
I’d really love to set up a (hopefully annual) conference-style day for 16-18 year olds. It would be open to the local colleges and 6th forms and would be held in the chemistry department at Durham University. The day would include workshops on topics like reading scientific journals, conductive effective scientific research and project management. Alongside the workshops there would also be lectures from distinguished academics, post doctoral researches and PhD students on a range of chemistry subjects. There would also be some lab-based practical work where the people attending the conference would design, plan and then conduct their own experiment. The aim of the day is to inspire some young people into a career in scientific research and to give an insight into what that career would involve.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, organised, active
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I presented my research at an international conference in Slovenia, I was really nervous but it was great fun.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My A level chemistry teacher Mr. Galvin. He was BRILLIANT!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’d own a tea room/art gallery that had small gigs at night and played great music and I’d make all the food from scratch.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
umm, I don’t have a favorite, I enjoy listening to lots of different types for music and I love live music. I go to as many gigs as possible.
What's your favourite food?
Thai food, all of it, nom!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I went to a music festival in Germany, that was pretty awesome.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1.To have a proper summer every year in England 2.To get my landlord to let me get a cat! 3.To finish my PhD with as little stress as possible!
Tell us a joke.
That’s a bit difficult because all the good ones argon.