Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Posts By: Rubina Kalra

Meet our Cohort 2016

  

📥  Case Studies, Comment

19 students, all passionate about sustainable chemical technologies, joined the CSCT in September this year. The following post is designed by Alison Ryder and Megan Stalker to sum up who they are, their different backgrounds and reasons for joining the Centre. 



Interested in joining us next year?
Applications are now open: www.bath.ac.uk/csct/cdt

 

Powering our world of the future: Sustainable transport fuels from microalgae

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📥  Events, Research updates

Final year student Jon Wagner was one of the five shortlisted finalists for The Ede and Ravenscroft Prize

The Ede and Ravenscroft Prize is an annual award for the best postgraduate research student awarded for the first time in 1991 and is generously funded by Ede and Ravenscroft, appointed robemakers to HM The Queen. 


Watch Jon's presentation on sustainable transport fuels from microalgae.

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Jon is working on his PhD on "Novel materials for catalytic conversion of bio-oils" with Dr Valeska Ting, Professor Mark Weller and Dr Chris Chuck.

 

CSCT team wins 'Engineering YES' Bristol Heat

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📥  Events, Prizes & awards

This post was contributed by James Coombs OBrien.


“Explain it to me like I’m a clever 12-year-old” was blurted at me as I tried to explain my PhD, and potential business, to a straight faced venture capitalist. “Quite frankly I couldn’t give a monkeys about the technology, sell me the benefits!” he exclaimed during my second attempt. Selling benefits over features was the first of many things I learnt during the Engineering YES 2016 Bristol Heats.

Engineering YES is a competitive three-day course directed at researchers. It aims to help bridge the gap between academic research and a viable business, a journey often christened “the valley of death”.

Our company, Calcaneus (named after the strongest bone in the body…..probably), aimed to solve the worlds persistent microbead issues with the use of biodegradable cellulose beads made via a unique technology.

“Explain it to me like I’m a clever 12-year-old”

“Explain it to me like I’m a clever 12-year-old”

For us, and probably most other researchers from the CSCT, it is easy to sell an idea to someone on sustainability grounds, “this process is more sustainable therefore give us money”. However, we quickly learnt that at best this is the third thing a potential investor is looking for after “how much money will I make and how quickly” and “who are the people I’m investing in”.

Team Calcaneus - From left to right – James Coombs OBrien (Founder and Chief scientist), Tristan Smith (Marketing Director), Kasia Smug (Finance Director) and Jon Chouler (Managing Director).

Team Calcaneus - From left to right – James Coombs OBrien (Founder and Chief scientist), Tristan Smith (Marketing Director), Kasia Smug (Finance Director) and Jon Chouler (Managing Director).

The event was composed of a mixture of seminars, professional networking sessions and one to one mentoring on every aspect business from financial planning to marketing and, crucially for us, intellectual property (IP). The mentoring session were by far the greatest help to our business leading to its development from a manufacturing company to one which, through clever use of IP, licensed out its technology to larger companies. This development required a lot of hard work and many a late night.

11:15 pm is spreadsheet time

11:15 pm is spreadsheet time

However, it all paid off! I’m happy to report that we, Calcaneus, won both the judges and peer review prizes (voted for by the other contestants). It’s a shame that no one told Tristan (see below).

We only went and won the heats!

We only went and won the heats!

The whole experience was eye opening. You quickly get used to the way business minded people think and talk, which is very different from a scientist. For me, a chemist by background, working at the interface of chemistry and chemical engineering who has had no exposure to how a business works, this was an intense and thought provoking experience.

That leaves me to thank all the organisers and mentors that help during the Engineering YES 2016 Bristol heat, in particular Kate Beresford, John Boyes and David Scott. I’d also like to thank the CSCT for funding myself and my team mates to attend this fantastic course. Anyway, back to some more spread sheets for the final in Birmingham, watch this space.

See more info about engineering YES.

A Chemical Engineer on a Project Management internship at Wessex Water

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📥  Internships & visits

PhD student, Jon Chouler, went on a three-month internship with Wessex Water in Bath. We asked him how he got on.


First of all, how did you find this internship?
One word: Persistence! In the process of finding a placement, I made sure to leave no stone unturned and everyone that I knew for advice and leads. For example, asking my supervisors, colleagues, and approaching individuals at events and meetings I attended. In the end, my co-supervisor suggested I contact an individual at Wessex Water regarding a project they were soon to be starting. One email, one meeting and two weeks later I was on placement!

What was your role?
My job was essentially project management. Wessex Water, along with some other key partners, wanted to run a project looking to deliver green and social prescriptions in order to reduce pharmaceutical use and their eventual presence in wastewater. My role was to take this project from an idea into a coherent project plan with an anticipated budget, and present this to all key stakeholders in this project. This involved collaborating and communicating between a wide range of groups including health professionals, nature trusts, university researchers and more.

What did a typical day look like?
Typical day? There was no such thing! Every day brought new challenges, new developments and new tasks. Working between so many different groups and people meant that every day was massively varied: one day I would have to understand sewage networks and flows (involving lifting manholes), the next I would be visiting providers of green prescription activities, and the day after talking to professionals at a local GP practice.

So what's next for the project and Wessex Water?
It's great to say that Wessex Water and other organisations warmed well to the project and details within, and it was subsequently presented to their board of directors and approved for funding to go ahead for the next 4 years!

How will this benefit your future?
The internship was a great chance to build upon essential skills that I will need for my future career in Chemical Engineering: collaboration, time management, budgeting, communication and project management.

It was also a great experience in terms of refining the kinds of jobs that I would like in the future. To be more specific, the internship made me realise that I would like to pursue jobs that bring big benefits to society and the environment at the same time.

What would be your one tip to someone who's thinking of an internship?
Enjoy it! It’s a chance to do something completely different and fully immerse yourself in it. Bring the enthusiasm and energy that a company looks for, and you can not only get a lot done (and feel really proud of yourself), but also create some incredibly useful connections and job prospects afterwards!


Jon is in his third year of PhD in the CSCT and is working with Dr Mirella di Lorenzo, Dr Petra Cameron and Dr Barbara Kasprzyk-Horden. See more information about Jon's research group.

Fuel Cell Technology & Applications Conference, Naples, Italy.

  

📥  Research updates, Seminars & Conferences

CSCT student, Jon Chouler attended and gave a talk at the 6th European Fuel Cell Technology & Applications Piero Lunghi Conference (EFC), in Napoli, Italy. As well as being located in a beautiful city beside the Mediterranean Sea and the Vesuzio mountain, the conference focussed on a breadth of Fuel Cell research - such as hydrogen fuel cells, alternative fuel cells, and fuel cell modelling research, but his key interest was on a 2-day side event focussed on Microbial Fuel Cell technologies. Here is Jon's account on his trip:

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Jon presenting his research at the conference.

My PhD research is based on the development of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) to be used as a biosensor for monitoring water quality. I aim to develop miniature MFCs to be used to assess water quality in a simple, inexpensive, rapid and onsite way. In particular I am interested in the effect that toxic compounds, such as organic compounds and pesticides, have on the performance of these MFC sensors, and hence the suitability of this technology for detecting such compounds.

There was a range of topics discussed for MFC technologies at the conference, such as MFCs used for energy generation from wastewater, winery wastewater, solid waste and other novel sources. A series of interesting talks were delivered by the team from Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of West England, who primarily use human urine as a feedstock for their MFCs. Their work aims to develop MFCs to generate energy from urine for use in remote and developing regions, and therefore their technology needs to be cost-effective and simple to use. Seeing their approaches to this challenge, such as using cheap materials and effective stacking configurations, allowed me to reflect on my own work and discuss ideas with them afterwards. We even discussed opportunities to hold Public Engagement events together in the future to showcase MFC technology to schools in the west of England.

A fascinating talk I attended was given by Dr Abraham Núñez from IMDEA Water in Spain, who discussed his work around desalination MFCs - in particular the use of MFCs to treat wastewater for energy generation and for freshwater production. As part of his work he discussed the use of in-field, real-time MFC biosensors that his team was using to detect organic contaminant concentrations at a sewage treatment works. This was fascinating to see and discuss, especially because in-field tests of my MFC devices is something that I would like to accomplish in my PhD. Fortunately, I managed to discuss this research with Abraham Núñez afterwards and there is a promising potential for cross collaboration between our research groups.

Fortunately, and for the very first time, I had the opportunity to present my research in detail during an oral presentation that I gave to attendees of the MFC side event. Although rather nerve-racking, this gave me a great chance to showcase all the work I have been doing in my PhD and discuss it in detail with experts in the field - not only through questions afterwards but also in conversations throughout the conference. As a results of this and networking with others, I had an opportunity to assess my work critically and also develop new ideas with others which will inevitably be helpful throughout my PhD.

As a final note I would strongly recommend others doing their PhD to attend an international conference strongly focussed on their research, and if possible give an oral presentation. This experience provided me with an invaluable opportunity to network, develop and share ideas, and create new collaborations that will help me in the future.

Jon is in his third year of his degree in the CSCT and is working with Dr Mirella di Lorenzo, Dr Petra Cameron and Dr Barbara Kasprzyk-Horden. See more information about Jon's work.

 

Photos: Winter Graduation 2015 and Celebrations

  

📥  Comment, Events

A big congratulations to our MRes graduates and PhD students (Rebecca Bamford, Anyela Ramirez Canon and Duygu Celebi). Following the Graduation Ceremony at the Bath Assembly Rooms on 9 December 2015, our newest cohort 2015 threw a celebratory party for all. I'll let the photos tell the story:

MRes Graduates of the CSCT

CSCT MRes Graduates 2015

See all photos from the Graduation Ceremony and the after-party.

 

Reflections of our MRes year

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📥  Case Studies, Comment

CSCT cohort 2014 graduated with flying colours on 9 December 2015 at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Out of the 16 students, 6 graduated with distinction and 9 with merit. As they move on to their first year of PhD, they reflect on their MRes year at the centre.

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Cohort 2014 at the University of Bath Graduation Ceremony in Bath.

1. What attracted you to the Integrated PhD in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, as opposed to other PhD programmes?

quote-dom
"The biggest reason for choosing the CSCT was that it has everything a PhD has plus much more. I finished my undergrad not knowing what I wanted to commit the next three years of my life in a lab researching, so I thought in the MRes year I would get to 'try before I buy' in research areas I'm interested in to test the water before leaping into a PhD. I wanted the social aspect of working in a cohort, which I felt would be very helpful to keep your morals up throughout the year. On a professional level the opportunity to take a 3 month internship in industry or abroad would be a fantastic experience and look good on the CV." - Jamie Courtenay

2. What do you feel is the biggest advantage gained by completing an MRes project within a different discipline than what was studied at undergraduate level?

quote-huan
"As a chemist my other project involved tissue engineering which I was a bit apprehensive about as I have not opened a biology text book since GCSE! However, I'm so pleased I went for this project as tissue engineering is now a major part of my PhD." - Jamie Courtenay

"I've come from a Theoretical Physics/ Computational Chemistry background but after working with the Electrical Engineering department I definitely don't fear reading experimental papers now!" - Suzy Wallace

"Doing a project in a different discipline has given me an insight into research methodology and techniques that I would otherwise not have experienced, therefore, making me a more well rounded researcher" - Dominic Ferdani

3. What did you gain from completing the compulsory modules such as ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Public Engagement’ and ‘Environmental Management’?

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"All the modules helped me become a well-rounded scientist. Learning about how your work and research relates to companies and society was eye opening. The Public Engagement activities really help to put the work done at the centre into perspective and develop communication skills which are crucial for success." - Mike Joyes

4. Away from the academic side of the course, what advantages are there from being a member of a centre full of like-minded students?

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5. Were the two MRes projects helpful in helping you to decide which area you wanted to study for your PhD?

quote-suzy
"Prior to joining the CSCT, I was unsure what I wanted to do for a PhD. The opportunity to do two shorter projects during my first year was incredibly helpful." - Shawn Rood

"The MRes project allowed me to try a more risky project that I wasn't sure would work before committing 3 years to it. The flexibility with the second project has also allowed me to include aspects of this in my PhD." - Andrew Hall

 

We're 6 years old!

📥  Comment

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) was first established in 2009. This academic year, we have turned six!

We are the only CDT to focus on developing new molecules, materials, processes and systems from the lab right through to industrial application, with an emphasis on practical sustainability.

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The CDT continues to grow, providing excellent research training for scientists and engineers to work together with industry to meet the needs of current and future generations.