Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Topic: Internships & visits

Science by the Sea: APS Meeting 2016 and Visiting Duke University

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📥  Internships & visits, Seminars & Conferences

The following blog is written by Suzy Wallace.


This year the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting was held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA from the 14th to 18th of March. I was fortunate enough to attend a tutorial day before the conference and to present my research on the potential new solar absorber material for solar cells, CZTS (Copper zinc tin sulphide).

This particular conference is amongst the largest physics conferences held each year with almost 10,000 attendees and around 50 or 60 symposia occurring at any given time with most talks only lasting ten minutes– so there was always potentially a lot to learn and you certainly were not short of things to do! The conference organisers even design a phone app for the conference to help you keep track of your schedule so that you don’t miss anything!  In addition to that there were a number of other events going on during the conference (such as the ‘rock n roll physics sing-a-long’ one evening) and also a lunch time special where you sign up to have a packed lunch with an expert in a particular field and a small number of other interested students. This was a great opportunity to discuss and get some advice on your research and career. It was also a great opportunity to ask questions to further your own understanding without having the slightly daunting situation of asking a potentially silly question in front of a very big audience!

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Baltimore was certainly an interesting city with lots of character to it! There seemed to be an interesting mixture of very artsy places and then much more urban areas. Then of course the harbour was beautiful and the seafood there was very good. I tried oysters for the first time there, conveniently during ‘oyster happy hour’ when they were $1 each!

After the conference in Baltimore I hopped over a state to head to Duke University in North Carolina to spend two weeks starting a new project with my international supervisor, Dr Volker Blum from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and his group, the "Ab initio materials simulations" group. The students and postdoctoral researchers in the group develop an atomistic simulation code (FHI-aims), which can be used to predict the properties of materials for various applications. In my case, it is the properties of a material that could indicate the potential to make a good solar cell that I’m looking for. Interacting with people who develop the methods you use is such a great learning experience, it also happened that there were a number of interesting guest speakers visiting the university while I was there so I got to attend even more talks!

As well as discussing simulating materials on computers, we also visited the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina at the weekend as a research group. This was such a beautiful coastal area with some amazing sand dunes, lots of light houses and this was also where the Wright brother’s first flight in a controlled, powered vehicle took place (presumably due to the soft landing space provided by the sand dunes!). There was certainly a lot to see at the Outer Banks for such a small strip of land and of course where better to discuss calculating a material’s properties using the many-electron wavefunction than at the beach after all!

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Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA (left) and the Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA (centre and right, although it wasn’t quite as sunny for us as it is in the far right photo!).

Suzy is working towards her PhD on 'Overcoming the efficiency bottleneck of metal sulfide solar cells' with Professor Aron Walsh, Professor Chris Bowen and Professor Mark Weller.

 

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.

Three Month Placement at Northwestern University and Pacifichem in Hawaii

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📥  Internships & visits, Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Rob Chapman.


At the end of August 2015, I had the opportunity to go and spend three months working for Professor Karl Scheidt at Northwestern University, just north of Chicago. Whilst in the group I was working on some NHC (N-heterocyclic carbene) organocatalysis, in which Karl is a world leading expert. In particular I was working on NHC homoenolate chemistry combined with an in-situ iron oxidation in a tandem catalytic system (for more details feel free to ask). Seeing how the American system works was a real eye opener and lots of hard work, luckily the group was really welcoming and I made some good friends who were happy to keep me entertained for the time I was there. Showing me the sights and sounds of Chicago, the deep dish pizza is incredible! Luckily my time in Chicago overlapped with thanksgiving and Ben drew the short straw in inviting me to Ohio to spend thanksgiving with his family, the best turkey I’ve ever eaten!

After Chicago my travels were directed towards Hawaii for Pacifichem 2015, but not before meeting up with Bill Cunningham, Steve Bull and Tony James in Miami. From there we embarked on a mini road trip towards Houston, which meant we got to see some of the less travelled parts of the US. The trip also included stop offs at the University of Florida (Gainsville) and Tulane University (New Orleans) where Steve and Tony gave presentations. From Houston we flew to Honolulu for the conference meeting up with Caroline Jones, Emma Lampard and Marc Hutchby. Pacifichem is a once every five year conference which is able to attract some of the biggest names in chemistry from around the world, which I’m sure is helped by the excellent location, and this year was no exception. Being able to attend was a real privilege and I’m very grateful to the CSCT for the opportunity. There were many fantastic talks; with Professor Grubbs on his progress towards E-selective metathesis and Professor Hartwig on some elegant tandem catalysis. There was also a really interesting session on NHC chemistry organised by Professor Karl Scheidt. However, for me the most thought provoking and impressive talk was by Professor Baran who presented some excellent work towards Taxol total synthesis (and other important natural products and drug molecules along the way). His research showed me that organic synthesis can be sustainable and that rather than an area to be overlooked, there is still the opportunity for huge strives forward.

Rob is working towards his PhD on "A protecting group free strategy for the sustainable synthesis of polyketide natural products" with Dr Steven Bull, Dr Pawel Plucinski and Dr Matthew Jones.

WildWise Residential: teepee tents, deer skinning, Predator and Mafia.

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📥  Internships & visits

As a team-building activity each year, the first year CSCT students go on a residential course that challenges their understanding of the natural world, and the nature of the balance that humans have with it. This year, cohort ’15 spent a few days exploring these ideas with WildWise in Dartmoor.

It was Sunday, the 22nd of November and all through the University was still. Not a person was stirring, not even the freshers, and yet, in East Car park there was a hive of activity.

Cohort’ 15 were rushing around, stuffing ourselves (and overfilled bags) into cars for our long journey south; with one final check that we hadn’t forgotten anything, or anyone, we set off! Once in the depths of Devonshire countryside, we stopped off for a slap-up carvery.

One final look over the directions before we drove in convey through the wild lanes of Dartmoor with only a single A4 sheet of directions to help. By the time we found Chris and his Wildwise truck we were well and truly disorientated! Chris led us to the muddy field “car park” next to a pine wood forest, and we pulled up, ready to start our time in the wilderness!

“Follow the track past the forest, turn right over the bridge, and then up the hill” - our instructions once we’d unloaded the cars. Ambiguous though they may have been, we quickly found ourselves approaching our home for the next few days:

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Our home.

Five teepee tents!

As the sun started to fall, we set up our tents ready to immerse ourselves in the wilderness – airbeds, hot water bottles and all – and made our way over to the warm fire.

After a hot meal, we fully welcomed story time around the camp fire, and the news that the temperature would drop to -2 °C (271 K) overnight…. It quickly turned competitive, to see who could wear the most layers.

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Frost!

A cold frosty morning greeted us the next day, with many happily surprised they didn’t have frost bite, but all was solved by the prospects of fire toasted crumpets and butter!

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Camp

In the light of the morning we were introduced to our camp, the luxurious compost toilet, and our team: Chris, Del, Devon, Mark and the beautiful, the wonderful, the incredibly cute Dexter.

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The incredibly cute, Dexter.

First day:

Off into the woods we went for a morning of “heightened awareness” where we had to spot the various “predators” that the team had hidden throughout the tangle of wood. Something our hunter gatherer ancestors would have been very successful at (we were not).

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Can you spot anything unusual?

Afterwards, we learnt how to light fires successfully, where the secret is picking the right sticks. Considering the brilliant minds we all must have to be in the CDT, apparently the idea of using small, dry sticks was beyond all of us, and none of our six  fires actually worked (maybe selection criteria for the next cohort?)

No fear though! Chris showed us the way and soon we were all toasting our marshmallows around our little burning fires.

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We did it!

With the fires dying down, half of the group went to help prepare our dinner (by skinning the deer which the Wildwise team had purchased) while the rest of us cleared away the embers so as not to leave a trace of our activity.

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Venison stew

As evening approached we settled down to a gentle evening by the fire after our delicious venison stew when Chris offered us the option to play a game...

PREDATOR.

We hesistantly accepted.

Into the pine woods we went as two teams, one team at each end of the woods. Our task was simple: reach a coloured light on the opposite side of the woods, without being caught by the predator - Chris, armed with a water gun.

We prepared ourselves. The whistle blew, and we crept, silently, forwards….

Well that was the plan, but a forest in autumn is covered with dead twigs/fallen trees/badge holes, so we all started crashing around. But soon our night eyes kicked it and we were doing our best to merge into nature. Alas, six of our group (three from each team) were lost to the beast in our first game, but obviously we had learned much and only one of us was caught the second time.  A massive adrenline rush all round!

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Curling up with Dexter after Predator.

Thoroughly worn out by the excitement, we retreated to the fire to play Mafia (a more advanced version of wink murder)! The game involves murder, witch trials and lyching and a poker face made of steal – team building at its best. Despite a number of us believing Felix to always be guilty we were continually surprised by his innoncence; instead the seemingly innocent and mild manner Dan was always one of the Mafia ring!

Second day:

We awoke refreshed after a cosy nights sleep because the temperature was actually above zero! Luxury!

Ahead of us was a day of tracking skills, beginning with us trying to spy objects through the trees that Chris had hidden. Maya and Felix were the clear natural trackers spotting 22/27 things! Next we sat alone in the surronding woodland so as to aquaint ourselves with the sounds of nature. After 20 mins of silence, it's amazing what you can hear!

Fun fact: Did you know that listening to the birds can tell you whether a predator is approaching from above or below depending on the call it makes?

A spot of lunch and then we began the real training – spotting each other's footprints in soft ground (suffice to say none of us were that natural at it - disappointed ancestors).

We spilt into two teams, each was assigned an instructor to track. After giving them an eight minute head start, both teams set off eagerly!

After 40 minutes of tracking, Team 1 had found the walking stick! They were close! Up the hill a few steps and there, in the tree…the wrong instructor, Chris. Back they went along the trail but which were Devon’s and which were Chris’?! Another 40 minutes found Team 1 back at camp consoling themselves with tea and biscuits.

Team 2 on the otherhand followed their trail closely, tracking their quarry well. Ah hah! A plastic bag! There, in the hollow… Devon, the wrong instructor. Drat. Both teams had failed to find the right instructor. With the light fading and both teams following the wrong trail, everyone returned to the camp for coffee, tea and warm spot by the fire.

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A tearful final meal....

For the last night, we celebrated our attempt at tracking with a hearty warming vegetable curry and for desert, Bananas with chocolate cooked on the fire! (Highly recommend this one).

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Bananas with chocolate.

The dedication of the cooks was evident in the tears shed over it though this was most likely due to the significant levels of smoke blinding everyone near the fire.

Our parting gift from Chris was one final campfire story and our returning gift was to include him in Mafia – where he may have been killed off as an innocent quite quickly (sorry!). To toast a fairwell to the residental we feasted on a giant family bag of marshmallows! (Thanks Dan).

Third day:

Our final morning dawned bright and early as we packed away our things and the tents. We said a solemn farewell to the team and the site, and set off again through the narrow roads of Dartmoor back to our lives in the modern world with showers and wifi…. Even if it does take 40 minutes to work out to find the main road because the sat navs don’t work. Excellent!

Thank you Wildwise for a great few days!

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(And if you ever need a dogsitter for Dexter, Cait is willing to offer her services!)

 

MOFs with Curtin University in Australia

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📥  Internships & visits

Our third year CSCT student Jessica Bristow undertook a six week internship at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

Developing computational methods to resolve structural and materials properties of MOFs (Metal-Organic Frameworks) is not an easy task! The primary focus of my PhD is to develop a transferable forcefield to model MOFs. A forcefield is a cheap and powerful method to accurately resolve mechanical materials properties if they are parameterised correctly.

Professor Julian Gale at Curtin University (Perth, Australia) is the developer of a forcefield program that I use called GULP (General Utility Lattice Program) and an expert in many computational methods. As a named international supervisor of my PhD project the opportunity arose for me to gain experience and knowledge in his research group. This was an incredible opportunity that could not be refused!

The work conducted at Curtin focused on improving work already done at Bath. Most importantly, was to transfer our current forcefield into GULP and increase the transferability of our approach for the analysis of the properties of MOFs. Thanks to the support of Professor Gale and the kindness of all the staff in the department the entire 6 weeks at Curtin were not only productive but also amazing fun!
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The outcomes of the 6 weeks at Curtin are numerous and work conducted there has initiated many projects now I am back at Bath. Whilst in Australia I also travelled both around Perth and in New Zealand and taking a well-deserved holiday! Locations travelled include the outback to see limestone formations in Perth, Rottnest island; an island with 65 beaches just off the coast of Perth and the entire of the north island of New Zealand. I miss everything about the other side of the world including all of the people I have met on my travels – I can only promise that I will be back!
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Jess is in cohort '12 of the CSCT and is currently working on her PhD project with Prof Aron Walsh (Chemistry) and Dr Valeska Ting (Chemical Engineering).

 

Biomaterials with University of São Paulo in Brazil

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📥  Internships & visits

Our third year CSCT student Marcus Johns undertook a three month internship at University of São Paulo, one of our partners in Brazil. Here’s what he had to say about his experience:

Improving the bio-functionality of cellulose in order to use it as a scaffold for human tissue growth is a challenge. Enough of a challenge that it’s the primary focus of my PhD. So far I’ve been developing materials based on blends of cellulose and chitosan – which is bio-functional but lacks tensile strength – and have had mixed success with them, so any opportunity to try an alternative method was more than welcome.

DSCF1622Fortunately one arose via our Global Innovation Initiative project “Transatlantic discovery, characterisation and application of enzymes for the recycling of polymers and composites”; a current collaboration between the University of Bath; the University of São Paulo, and Ohio State University. Researchers under Professor Igor Polikarpov at USP had reported that they had managed to isolate the section of protein that was responsible for allowing a particular enzyme to attach to cellulose, and had modified it to allow other chemicals to be cross-linked to it. If a bio-functional chemical – such as a peptide – could be cross-linked to this protein, it would potentially be possible to improve the bio-functionality of my cellulose scaffolds once the compound had been adsorbed onto their surface. My three month internship was then organised.

Going to a country where you don’t speak the language – and didn’t learn one with a similar root at school – can be daunting, particularly when you don’t start learning the language till a month before you go. From experience, I strongly recommend learning at least a series of basic sentences before anyone attempts this as it saves many minutes of confused looks and expansive hand-gestures used to be understood. My second piece of advice is to never underestimate the size of a country – the University of São Paulo has a number of campuses and the one that I was to work at was located in São Carlos, a three and half hour drive from São Paulo. Many of my friends were expecting me to spend a fair amount of time on a beach, unfortunately this wasn’t realised as the nearest beach was five hours away by car.

However, I managed to overcome these issues and spent a productive three months in Brazil. The facilities in the laboratory were very impressive – six HPLCs for a lab of less than twenty students with three dedicated support staff – and it was clear that São Paulo state’s commitment of 13 % of its GDP to higher education and research and development was being well spent. I also was able to visit the National Centre for Research in Energy and Materials in Campinas for a week, with time spent at the Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory using their scanning electron microscope and atomic force microscopy facilities. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to definitively prove that the compound could improve cell attachment and growth on cellulose, but I did obtain a number of novel results that have raised further questions and hopefully set-up further collaborations for the future.

I also managed to do a little travelling whilst I was out there, including visiting São Paulo during Carnival. I didn’t notice the water shortages that have been prevalent in the news recently whilst I was there, but a trip to Furnas – which is next to one of the main reservoirs for the region of São Paulo – proved more eye-opening. To see the extent by which the water-level has dropped in the reservoir in the last three years was shocking. Many house-owners on the shore now have two boathouses – one where the water-level used to be and one where the water-level now is – and tree-tops can be seen sticking out of the water. It brought home the challenges associated with climate change – which also includes the recent increase in dengue cases in the region due to people storing rain water in open containers, the perfect places for mosquitos to breed – and why the research being carried out at the centre and our public engagement activities are so important. Overall, I had a great time in Brazil and would recommend it to anyone thinking of going there.

Marcus is working towards his PhD in the CSCT and is supervised by Dr Ram Sharma and Dr Janet Scott at University of Bath and Dr Sameer Rahatekar at University of Bristol.

 

Green Catalysis with the National University of Singapore

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📥  Internships & visits

First year CSCT student Michael Joyes visited the Lab of Green Catalysis group at the National University of Singapore (NUS) as part of the Global Collaboration Scheme. The aim was to produce metal-Graphene catalysts for use in the conversion of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons as part of the broader topic of carbon dioxide utilisation. Here is a little bit about his time there:

‘After thirteen long hours, countless movies and several meals on the plane I arrived at my accommodation in Singapore, jet-lagged but excited to start work. It was a short walk the next day to the National University of Singapore, where I proceeded to get lost in the huge American style NUS campus. I finally found my way to the correct building and met the Lab of Green Catalysis group led by Professor Yan Ning.

I embarked on this collaboration project after my supervisor Dr Davide Mattia secured funding from the Global Collaboration Scheme. The aim was to work with the Yan Ning group at the NUS to produce metal-Graphene catalysts for use in the conversion of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons as part of the broader topic of carbon dioxide utilisation. The Yan Ning group had developed a novel method that involved a ‘popping’ step where after the metal is added to the Graphene it is heated and pops once it reaches a certain temperature! (See video)

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Quartz tube containing metal graphene catalyst in a furnace

I got to grips with the methods associated with making this catalyst quickly and begun making as much as possible to take back to Bath for testing.

I had a weekend to explore Singapore and my first stop was Chinatown, where I got thoroughly lost in the crowds, I then made my way to explore the many malls and food courts the city has to offer, trying many different styles of food. Singapore is a very multicultural country so there is a varied range of cuisine such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai to name a few!

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Chinatown

My next stop was the Singapore Botanic Gardens, first envisaged in 1822 by the founder of the city of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. The gardens feature several different areas such as the National Orchid Garden, the Healing Garden and the Rain Forest Garden. My personal favourite was the evolution garden which detailed the evolution of flora over time as you walked through it.

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

The next day I visited Marina Bay Sands Skypark, a viewing platform on top of three high-rise hotels. Up there I enjoyed a spectacular view of Singapore, dotted with skyscrapers, landmarks and sea.

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Marina Bay Sands Skypark

I had a great time in Singapore and the two weeks flew by. I feel the experience helped me to learn the methods needed to further my project and produced a good amount of catalyst to hopefully get some good results from. It was also rewarding to learn more about the process of collaboration and great to meet new people from different parts of the world!

Michael is in cohort '14 of the CSCT and is currently working on his first MRes project with Dr Davide Mattia (Chemical Engineering) and Dr Matthew Jones (Chemistry).

 

CSCT Cohort '14 visit the Eden Project

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📥  Internships & visits

From the 4th-7th November 2014, the '14 CSCT cohort  ventured down to Cornwall to embark on a team building residential at the Eden Project. Student Florence Jeffrey recalls the experience. 

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Florence in front of the Rain forest and Mediterranean Biomes

 

Day 1

Setting off from Bath on a very wet and windy Tuesday morning, the group were in good spirits, ready to embark on what was to be a mysterious journey. On arrival at the Eden project we instantly felt welcome by the residential team and all shown to our Snoozeboxes; recycled shipping containers converted into youth hostel accommodation and our homes for the next three days.

We were then invited to take a stroll around the site, being told that we would soon be observing Eden from an 'interesting angle'.  As we approached the start of the SkyWire, the longest zip wire in England, it quickly became clear what they meant: we would be seeing the Eden project for the first time by flying over it, on our stomachs, at up to 60 kph.

After we had all safely descended onto the site, some more reluctant than others, we joined two of the Eden project’s chefs to make our evening meal before entering the Rainforest Biome. Here we were treated to a unique night-time view of the biome, 55m above the rain forest floor on a viewing platform where we were all discussed our motivations for joining the CSCT.

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CSCT students Mike, Rob and Florence before the SkyWire

Day 2

To our relief, the rains of yesterday had been replaced with crisp November sun; perfect weather for our morning of team exercises, shelter building and bonding activities in the nearby woods. These were however bonding exercises with a difference; for instance nothing makes you bond with a person more than being asked to sit inside your beautifully prepared shelter and stare into each others eyes for 5 minutes. In silence.

With the sun (thankfully) still shining, the entire group was asked to spend three hours alone in the woods. This was referred to as performing a  ‘solo’ and was a time intended for us to reflect on both our thoughts and lives, and feel at one with the nature surrounding us. Due to the groups varying attention span, this was harder for some more than others.

As darkness fell and a full moon emerged, the group were invited to take part in a Sweat lodge, a traditional ritual performed by Native Americans . The lodge itself had been hand-built during the day and dressed by the group following the solos. Once inside, it was heated with hot rocks from the base of the camp fire and filled with steam. This was an opportunity to share stories of our time in the woods and to further bond as a group. The heat, darkness, humidity and confinement of the lodge made it an extremely testing environment (we were told temperatures can reach up to 45ºC), and although it wasn't an enjoyable experience for everybody, it has since sparked conversation, debate and laughter throughout the group.

Building the Sweat lodge

Building the Sweat lodge

Day 3

Day 3 began with everybody waking (a few more tired than others due to a few drinks the night before...) to the sound of heavy rain falling on our shipping containers. Our planned day of cycling continued regardless (if a little delayed whilst everybody sourced any form of waterproofing available) and we all made our merry way to a disused kaolin clay mine where we discussed the history of the landscape and the challenges that Cornwall still faces as one of the poorest regions in Europe.

After having some time to dry off and warm up, we re-entered the rain forest biome of the Eden project for a time of meditation and reflection, as well as a discussion around the fundamental environmental and social problems currently faced by humanity. After this highly engaging and thought-provoking talk, we all made our way back to base camp and enjoyed a leaving party organised by our Eden facilitators where we all shared stories from our trip late into the evening, fueled of course by Cornish lager and ale.

 

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CSCT Cohort '14

 

 

CSCT students and academics take part in 1st Yonsei-Bath International Workshop on Energy, Environment and Sustainability

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📥  Internships & visits, Seminars & Conferences

In October 2014, CSCT students David Miles, Stephen Wood and Jemma Rowlandson attended the 1st Bath-Yonsei International Workshop on Energy, Environment and Sustainability.

On 16th – 17th October the 1st Bath-Yonsei International Workshop on Energy, Environment and Sustainability took place at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. A delegation of academics and postgraduates from Bath attended the workshop. This workshop was a continuation of the strong ties between the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies in Bath, and the Global E3 Institute at Yonsei University. The workshop intended to showcase state-of-the-art research from leading academics of both institutions, and to explore potential joint collaborations, particularly in the areas of energy, environment and sustainability.

 

Workshop participants at Yonsei University

Workshop participants at Yonsei University

The workshop began with opening remarks from both Prof. Heonjin Choi and Prof. Aron Walsh, who introduced the importance of international collaboration, and in particular the field of sustainability. A series of technical lectures were given by academics from both institutions. These commenced with a lecture by Prof. Hansung Kim of Yonsei University, who presented a new synthetic method to prevent a reduction in catalyst surface area of carbon-supported Pt during heat treatment. This was followed by Bath’s own Dr. Valeska Ting who presented current research on the characterisation, modelling and use of nanoporous materials for use in a wide variety of sustainable energy applications. There were many excellent presentations from both institutions on a wide variety of areas, from solar cells and nanofabrication to the synthesis of fine chemicals from renewable resources. The penultimate talk was given by Prof. Chris Bowen, giving an excellent insight into current research on piezoelectric materials and devices. Piezoelectrics is an interesting area that is not highlighted often enough, which has very real industrial and commercial applications.

University of Bath delegation at Yonsei University

University of Bath delegation at Yonsei University

In addition to the lectures a poster session and flash presentations were performed by PhD students from Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, and postdoctoral researchers from the Walsh Materials Design group. The lecture series and small group discussions have led to several potential research collaborations between Bath and Yonsei academics. The students would like to give a special thanks to their Korean hosts, especially Prof. Aloysius Soon and his group for their hospitality during our stay. We were shown a few sights around Seoul, including a beautiful Korean teahouse, and were introduced to several types of traditional cuisine.

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Bath delegates with members of Prof. Aloysius Soon's Materials Theory group at the Yonsei Tea Museum

 

 

Internship report: Lisa Sargeant, Almac, Northern Ireland

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📥  Internships & visits

Lisa Sargeant, final year DTC student, undertook a one month internship way back in Janurary at Almac in Northern Ireland. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences:

2014-02-02 15.35.34Taking experiments from the millilitre scale to the litre scale can always be a challenge, but one that’s necessary to see a future in any given application. I was fortunate enough to spend a month working with the biocatalysis team at Almac in Northern Ireland doing just that.

This is not the first time Almac have collaborated with Bath University. Indeed, Tom Moody of Almac has been strongly involved with Simon Lewis’ research group in the Dept. of Chemistry for several years. More specifically, they were involved with Julia Griffin’s PhD (a recent graduate of the DTC), and her work on microbial oxidation for chiral synthetic intermediates. I was fortunate enough to meet Tom at last years’ CSCT summer showcase, which sparked this secondary collaboration.

Whereas Almac’s expertise isn’t so much in biofuels, they do have plenty of experience of taking microbial cultures from shake flasks and putting them into fermenters, all the way from two litres up to 100 litres.

As you may have seen, I recently published a paper which looked into tailoring the lipid profile of R. glutinis by changing temperature and well as the concentrations of carbon and nitrogen. These were all undertaken as 100 ml growth studies. At Almac, I took the most favourable of these conditions and attempted to replicate them in their fermenters, whilst adding in some other variables.

One of the variables I changed in the fermenters was growing the yeast with and without ultrasonic treatment. It has been suggested that when applied at a low level, ultrasound can increase product production, so I gave it a go with my yeast. And was it successful? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the publication to find that out!