Epic stuff guys and girls - big cheers to all - really enjoyed the chats and questions, and hope you did too !
I’m Maltese so did the bulk of my studies back in Malta before moving to the UK. I read for a 3 year undergraduate Bachelors in Science with Honours (BSc (Hons)) in Chemistry with Materials – which mainly tackled chemistry (your key disciplines, these being inorganic, organic, physical and analytical chemistry) and had some materials science from an engineer’s point of view (metallurgy, manufacturing, and lots of steel). After doing that I got a scholarship to study in the Uk, so did a Masters by research at Imperial College, and then moved over to Bristol to take up a PhD position at the Centre for Organized Matter Chemistry.
BSc (Hons.) Chemistry with Materials (University of Malta). Masters by Research (MRes) in Nanomaterials (Imperial College)
I haven’t really had non-science based jobs, apart from a brief stint as a bartender during one summer. The other summers were spent running quality control on samples of prickly pear and seaweed extract, and interning in Antwerp, where I got to make lots of porous nanomaterials.
PhD – I wouldn’t say it’s a job though – it’s a mix between hobby and lifestyle
In essence my work involves modifying natural proteins using chemical techniques to make novel materials.
The first step involves making the protein positively charged.
The second step involves addition of a negatively charged polymer molecule to the protein – like charges attract, causing many polymer chains to stick to each protein (think of it as a hairy protein. These hairy proteins start clumping together, and can then be used to form new materials…
… like Films!
What’s even cooler is that if the proteins in question are enzymes then it’s very possible to use them to carry out chemical reactions. This means we can use a material that is very thin and easy to handle to turn chemical reactions on and off – a chemical switch!
My Typical Day:
Roll in via bike, rock up to the lab, do science, head home.
Typically I’m in by 9ish or a bit before – I cycle 10 minutes to Uni which allows me to get my thoughts in order. I’ll usually put down a to-do list on getting to the office and start working my way through it. If there’s lab work to be done I’ll start it up immediately – our lab is right opposite the office so it’s easy to get in. I’m a bit too much of an experimentalist at times so will happily stay in the lab for a few hours doing all sorts of things – starting new reactions, checking samples, running assays, dialyzing proteins (i.e chucking them into large beakers of water to clean them up).
Lunchtime is around 13.00 – I usually have this with other members of the group and we do the Guardian quick crossword, nothing beats a group effort. If I’ve got any errands to run or other things to do I do them then, and try to get back into things by 14.00
Afternoons are usually milder paced (banana and apple at 16.00), but depends on the day. If I’ve got new data I’ll process it into results, and in an ideal world I’d also write it up into a mini lab report to have on file. I’m usually heading home by 18.00ish, depending on what I need to do.
On some afternoons there are talks/seminars by academics from different universities – I regularly attend these, good opportunity for learning things.
I think the above sounds more like “my ideal day”. In reality I deviate from the above quite a bit due to to things like:
Instruments going out of action.
Realizing I didn’t book the instrument I wanted on time and that it is now booked till 18.00 or so.
Other group members asking me for help with techniques, advice etc.
An experiment not working as I expected, or not being able to understand results (can easily lead to loss of morale).
Having other things to do like science outreach (I give talks to students), notetaking or tutoring.
And sometimes I do pop in on the weekends to run experiments or get things going – a few hours is usually OK, especially when it’s quiet.
What I'd do with the prize money:
A calendar for science classes and labs!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Quirky, Committed, Keen
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not often, although I did have a run-in or two, and used to deviate a bit from procedure during chemistry labs.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Depends on mood, but quite enjoy my ManoWar, Edith Piaf, Sigur Ros and My Chemical Romance
What's your favourite food?
Fish is high on the list, followed by lots of vegetables.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. A door in my room that led to Malta, my homeland. 2. A super adventure buddy – the kind that is of the can-do attitude and is always hatching plans. 3. Another hamster – sadly Fritz Haber, my previous one (who also satisfied criteria for wish 2), passed away before I left Malta.
Tell us a joke.
Sodium sodium sodium sodium….. BATMAN!