Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Conference Report: UKERC International Energy Summer School 2013

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

3rd year DTC students Lisa Sargeant and Jessica Sharpe attended the UKERCs Summer School at Warwick University. This post describes their experience.

Problems and answers on the "Collaboration wall"

Energy problems and answers on the "Collaboration wall"

‘Energy security’, ‘green economy’ and ‘sustainable development’ are phrases that we regularly hear in the media, but how do we actually achieve them? In January this year, the Scottish conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Crucial to keeping the lights on in years to come is an energy mix made up of renewables, nuclear and oil and gas”. This was the premise behind the UK Energy Research Centre’s (UKERC) Summer School held in Warwick from 7 – 12 July.

The summer school was designed to bring together students from technical disciplines as well as social scientists and economists; only half of which were from UK universities. The other half were made up from participants as far afield as New Zealand, China and Hawaii. Places for the event were competitive, but Lisa and Jess were fortunate to be awarded two of the 100 places.

As much about soft skills development (such as networking and presentation skills) as knowledge transfer, the week was broken down into formal lectures, group activities and master classes. The lectures touched on the complex nexus of the energy market, and covered a broad range of subjects including energy policy, to the impact of US shale gas on global markets, and energy production in developing countries.

Taking place at the same time as the summer school was the annual UKERC assembly, in which members were asked to put forward the ‘Big Questions’ that were allocated for the student group presentations. Lisa’s group were asked ‘Are smart grids oversold?’, which they answered in the style of the BBC’s Question Time program (Lisa’s role was to be David Dimbleby)! Jess’s group were asked ‘Big or Small? Should we work towards an international energy system, or concentrate on local energy systems?’.

During the week there was also a poster session, which covered many different aspects of the global energy situation. This proved a fantastic opportunity for Lisa and Jess to set up collaborations with other students in similar areas of research, as well as with students studying completely different, but complementary, aspects of work. Jess also had a poster accepted for the poster session and found it fantastic opportunity to discuss her work.

With the traditional ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude, the evening activities were as wide ranging as the energy topics. These included a cultural evening, drum café and pub quiz. The week was topped-off with a fantastic ceilidh dance where everyone could truly let their hair down.

Overall, both Lisa and Jess thought that it was a fantastic experience and a they would strongly recommend other DTC students in the energy sector to take part.


Conference Report: Green Chemistry and Engineering

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

On 18–20 June 2013, 4th year PhD student Julia Griffen attended the 17th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in North Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

PhD student Julia Griffen in Maryland for the ACS GC&E conferenceI would like to thank the ACS Green Chemistry Institute for awarding me the Joseph Breen Memorial Prize. Without it I would have been unable to attend this year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.  Since starting my PhD I have always wanted to attend a conference in the US as I consider it a hub of academic science, innovation and industry. With green chemistry being central to my research, this conference was a natural choice as it offered excellent variety of keynote presentations, technical talks and poster presentations.

My key learnings from attending this event were vast and varied. At the student workshop I was able to meet, engage and debate with many students from different institutions and stages of their scientific careers.  The workshop, excellently delivered by Constable and Williams, presented a general overview of the 12 principles of green chemistry. Additionally the outreach activity organized by beyondbenign was incredibly engaging interactive and simply fun.

Keynote addresses included that from Milton Hearn of Monash University, who eloquently introduced and emphasised why we need green chemistry and his current research efforts in Australia. Michael Pcolinski of BASF Corporation gave an insight to the business aims, tools and methods used to analyse and implement green chemistry into company strategy. Finally James Hutchison of the University of Oregon described ‘Greener Nanoscience’ work on nanomaterials, which I am not as familiar with, in the synthesis and collaborative toxicology studies involving the use of zebra fish.

Through the technical sessions I learnt of the difficulties from implementing green chemistry  from Lynn Ledger of Alcereco, and strategies for encouraging the next generation of green chemists, the emphasis being the need for better training and education. I was fascinated by the number of commercial tools and databases available for companies to access the toxicology and ‘green score’ of a chemical process, which I was previously unaware off, especially that presented by George Thompson  of a web-based for alternative assessment of a chemical process.  I especially enjoyed the Panel Session of ‘Going Global: International perspectives on green chemistry’ enabling me to engage and draw on my experience of implementing a green chemistry course at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This discussion time, facilitated by Kira Matus from the London School of Economics, enabled in-depth discussion of the success stories and barriers to implementing green chemistry globally.

Key benefits to me personally and professionally came though the numerous networking opportunities. I especially enjoyed the poster sessions where I was able to meet and converse with students, academics and industry over my work, green chemistry and generally science. Additionally the poster sessions allowed me to see other’s work that I was not able to see due to clashing of parallel sessions.

I feel that attending this conference has significantly broadened my subject knowledge of green chemistry especially business tools and strategy, toxicology testing and design, education and engagement. I hope this will benefit my future career choice within the chemical industry to enable me to become a conscientious and considerate scientist whom puts the principles of green chemistry into practice.


Conference Report: 2013 International Summer School
 on HPC Challenges in Computational Sciences

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

From Sunday 23 to Friday 28 June 2013, DTC PhD student Jessica Bristow took part in the 2013 International Summer School 
on HPC Challenges in Computational Sciences in New York. This post describes her experience.

It was a privilege to be accepted to the 2013 International Summer School
 on HPC Challenges in Computational Sciences in New York. During this summer school we were taught:

  • HPC challenges with specific reference to individual subjects such as: materials chemistry, astrophysics, bioinformatics etc;
  • How to analyze the performance & profiling of a code and improve the efficiency via the implementation of OpenMP, MP, CUDA and OpenACC;
  • Available numerical libraries to aid coding;
  • For the more relaxed lectures we were taught data management and scientific visualization tools.

Jess NYC Summer School 2013

The summer school was a unique opportunity to meet others in my field and initiate future collaborations for my PhD. We all enjoyed the school and the additional activities put on for us included a cruise up the River Hudson. I would like to thank specifically Scott Lathrop and Simon Wong for organizing this event.

I would like to express my gratitude to the U.S. National Science Foundation's Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) project, the European Union Seventh Framework Program's Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), and RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) who formed a collaboration to offer 70 students from Europe, USA and Japan an expense-paid program.

HPC challenges with specific reference to individual subjects such as: materials chemistry, astrophysics, bioinformatics etc.
How to analyze the performance & profiling of a code and improve the efficiency via the implementation of OpenMP, MP, CUDA and OpenACC.
Available numerical libraries to aid coding.
For the more relaxed lectures we were taught data management and scientific visualization tools.


Joint symposium with materials chemists in South Korea

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📥  Internships & visits

Yonsei University, Seoul

Deoksugung Palace, Seoul

Whorrod Research Fellow Dr Aron Walsh travelled to Seoul to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding between the CSCT and the global E3 institute at Yonsei University, visiting from Saturday 8 to Friday 14 June 2013. 2nd-year DTC student Adam Jackson accompanied him to take part in a student-run symposium with the research group of Professor Aloysius Soon.

This post was contributed by Adam Jackson.

We joined Prof. Aloysius Soon's Materials Theory Group for their second "Materials Information, Characterisation, and Exploration" (MTG-MICE 2) workshop on 11 June. Looking for a creative environment, the students booked a venue in Heyri, the scenic "artists' village" close to the North Korean border.

The word-play theme continued with student talks on "Brodium" (bromine on palladium) and the "Tinkerbell" project, while a theme also emerged in the concept of scale: Prof. Soon, Universtity of Toronto student Britna Lee and I each presented work on bulk properties. Bridging atomistic theory to practical engineering properties is a powerful tool, but a lot remains to be done. Aron Walsh and Yonsei student Johnny Kim focused more on computational scaling; materials modelling accounts for a significant proportion of supercomputer usage, and it is important to be efficient while using cutting-edge technology. Suhyun Yoo, who recently received a Bath Global Partner Scholarship, is currently using some of our computing resources

MICE2-studyWe were also able to visit two other leading research centres: at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) we caught up with Yong-Hyun Kim; Prof. Kim will visit Bath at the end of July. Seoul National University (SNU) is the top public university in the Republic of Korea, and we were invited to present a seminar in the Department of Physics; after presenting my work I faced some very insightful questions!

Of course, when in Seoul we had to take in a few of the sights... and vast quantities of delicious food (after getting to grips with some seriously hefty chopsticks). Deoksugung Palace provided some history while the Cheonggyecheon stream has been reclaimed to form a beautiful community space. The streets themselves are connected by a sweeping network of underground (and air-conditioned!) arcades.

MTG-MICE 3 is in the process of being organised; it will be held in Bath in September 2013 just before the DTC Summer Showcase (which our visitors will also be joining), and we hope to live up to the high expectations set by this fascinating and enjoyable session.



Conference report: 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for fuels and chemicals

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post comes from 3rd-year DTC PhD student, Lisa Sargeant.

Lisa Sargeant and Rhodri Jenkins

Lisa Sargeant and Rhodri Jenkins

It’s a sure-fire sign that you’ve chosen the right conference to attend when even feeling tired and jet-lagged doesn’t stop you having a conversation with a Prius-owning taxi driver about the fuel efficiencies of hybrid engines. From Monday 29 April to Thursday 2 May CSCT Whorrod Prize Fellow, Dr. Chris Chuck; fellow CSCT student, Rhodri Jenkins; I (Lisa Sargeant) and colleagues from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry were fortunate enough to travel to the USA to attend the 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for fuels and chemicals. The symposium was hosted by the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology in Portland, Oregon, a city famous for beer, coffee and wine!

Across the four days of the conference, we heard talks ranging from conversion technologies for biofeedstocks to biorefineries and the economics & commercialisation of biofuels/bioproducts.

Chris Chuck and I both presented posters on liquid fuels from M. pulcherima and R. glutinis respectively. Rhodri presented a fantastic talk about his research on ‘The identification and engine testing of potential renewable oxygenated biofuels for the aviation and road transport sectors’. These led to discussions with researchers from the University of British Colombia, NREL, University of Campinas, Brazil and Michigan State University: contacts we hope to develop in the future.

The talks were sandwiched between the keynote speech from Dr. Lee Lynd and the banquet speaker, Prof. Douglas Eveleigh. Lee Lynd set the tone for the conference perfectly by addressing any doubts on the feasibility and desirability of large-scale cellulosic biofuel production, whilst Douglas Eveleigh wrapped-up the conference with his highly entertaining talk entitled “Cellulase – the greatest show on earth” with references to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, Thomas Crapper and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Making the most of being State-side, we took the opportunity to take a holiday and hired cars to tour the West coast taking in sights such as Crater Lake, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.


Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

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📥  Events

Team CSCT presentingFour DTC students  recently participated in a three-day energy themed business competition organised for postgraduate researchers in the EPSRC-funded Network of Energy Centres for Doctoral Training.

Lee Burton, David Miles, Lisa Sargeant and Kathryn Wills represented our DTC to compete against nine other teams at the Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Energy YES) which took place in Edinburgh on 22-24 May. The scheme was created to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship amongst researchers.

Over the three days there were presentations and case studies from leading business and industry figures which covered a range of topics around entrepreneurship, commercialisation and technology transfer. In addition to these sessions, the teams also spent a large part of the week devising a 5-year business plan for a new business idea related to an energy technology.

Mentors from a variety of backgrounds with experience spanning the energy sector and start-up businesses were on hand to offer advice and the week culminated with an oral business plan presentation to a group of potential investors.

Although it was the team from the Midlands Energy Graduate School who were ultimately successful, our students all agreed that the workshop was a very useful experience for learning business skills and an excellent opportunity for networking with the other Energy CDTs and energy-sector professionals.

Photos 1 & 2 reproduced with permission from the Energy CDT Network.