Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Presenting my research at the Organoboron Chemistry session at Pacifichem in Hawaii

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Emma Lampard.

In December I was lucky enough to travel to the Hawaiian island of O’ahu to present my work at Pacifichem 2015, a large international conference held in Honolulu every five years. Approximately 15,000 chemists attended the conference, including myself and fellow CSCT students Rob Chapman (read his blog), Bill Cunningham and Caroline Jones (read her blog). The technical program contained contributions from 71 countries, emphasizing the collaborative nature of chemistry as a multidisciplinary science. More than 17,000 papers were presented in either oral or poster formats, in 334 symposia focusing on 11 different topical areas of chemistry.

Presenting my work in the Organoboron Chemistry session

Presenting my work in the Organoboron Chemistry session

I presented my research in the Organoboron Chemistry: Applications in Organic Synthesis, Biology and Materials session. My research focuses on the synthesis and use of benzoxaboroles for membrane separation. Benzoxaboroles are compounds of increasing interest due to their diverse range of potential applications. My project focuses on the synthesis of benzoxaborole monomers, which can then be incorporated into polymer membrane systems. Benzoxaboroles have been shown to have high affinity for both diols and fluoride, so the polymers produced will be screened for their ability to selectively extract catechol natural products from aqueous extracts of waste grape biomass and also their ability to remove fluoride from water.

My project aims to alleviate the adverse environmental impact of the wine industry by providing new routes to convert the waste biomass into economically viable chemical product streams and provide a cheap and simple method for the detection and removal of fluoride from drinking water. It was a fantastic experience to give an oral presentation of my work in front of many world-class researchers working in the field of organoboron chemistry. Although I was one of only very few students to present as a part of this session, my talk was very well received. I gained a lot from the experience and will definitely feel a lot more confident delivering presentations in the future.

Other talks of interest in my session included a presentation by Dennis Hall on boronic acid catalysis for the direct activation of alcohols in Friedel-Crafts alkylations using a new ferrocenium boronic acid salt catalyst, yielding only water as a byproduct and avoiding the use of other activating groups, making the reactions much greener compared to traditional methods. Also of note was Michinori Suginome who spoke about masked boronyl groups as directing groups for transition metal-catalyzed C-H functionalization.

Whilst in Hawaii we managed to spend a few days exploring the island on either side of the conference. Highlights included a hike up the Diamond Head crater, a visit to Pearl Harbour and snorkelling with Hawaiian green sea turtles. I am very grateful to the conference organisers for accepting me to present my work and for the funding from the CSCT and the RSC Organic Division Travel Grant Scheme which allowed me to attend this conference.

Sunset over Waikiki Beach

Sunset over Waikiki Beach

Emma is working towards her PhD on "Benzoxaboroles for Membrane Separation" with Professor Tony James, Dr Darrell Patterson and Dr Steven Bull.


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.

The Secret Life of a Computational Scientist in the Chemistry Department


📥  Research updates, Secret Life Blogs

In this first of our series of Secret Life Blogs, you will get an insight into the life of an anonymous Computational Scientist at the CSCT. 

computer-anonymousIn the depths of every chemistry department lies a lab unlike any other. No fume hoods, no questionable stains, a considerable lack of COSHH forms and any glassware contains a drinkable liquid. This lab belongs to the elusive computational chemists. Obviously, computational chemistry is rather different to the “traditional chemistry” we all dreamed of, but why do these strange individuals choose to live out their PhD lives staring at virtual atoms and molecules on their monitors? Here are some questions that you didn’t ask, answered anyway.

What do you actually do?
In a nutshell: Use powerful computers to (approximately) solve complex equations. The solutions to these equations shed light on the microscopic structure and origins of the macroscopic properties of chemical systems and materials. These days, computational chemistry is not so much a subsection of chemistry, but an exciting area where chemistry, quantum mechanics, physics, materials engineering, materials science and other disciplines all meet.

But I hate maths and physics, so I should avoid a computational project at all costs, right?
Well first things first, as scientists, there is no such thing as being bad at maths. Come on guys, let's just admit, we’re pretty decent at maths (clap yourself on the back). For computational modelling, it’s good to have an interest in maths as well as the “physics-y” end of the chemistry spectrum, for sure, but this should by no means is a deal breaker. Fortunately, there are a plethora of handy programs that can do all of the complicated mathematical legwork for you.

Computational chemistry 1

So you just put a couple of numbers in and press go!? Sounds like the dream!
Woah now, let’s nip this one in the bud. If there’s one thing we know about computers it’s that if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out (or in other words, Computer says no). This is as true for simple addition on a pocket calculator as it is for a density functional theory code run on a national High Performance Computer. With so many variables that can influence the outcome of some of these simulations, getting sensible and meaningful numbers out of your calculations often requires a lot of experimenting. It is not as simple as ticking some boxes, pressing go, watching alternate videos about dancing cats and how to make hummus until the calculation has run and then pressing “publish paper”.

Computational chemistry 2

Hang on, so do you have to know how all the programs work or not?
You don’t need to read and understand all the code that makes up all the programs that you use. That would just be… mental. You can think of the programs, which contain all the whizzy physics and maths, as a car that you are using to traverse the terrain that is the structure landscape of your model system or material: You don’t have to know exactly how every part of the engine works or how the whole thing is bolted together to have a fruitful drive. Having said that, you do need to know how to drive it, where the fuel goes, how to check the oil and any post-docs in your office would probably really appreciate it if you knew how to change a wheel on your own.

Be honest… were you just a liability in the lab?
I was absolutely marvellous in the lab, thanks for asking. But in my experience, sometimes working in a lab was not all is cracked up to be (gasps echo through the corridors of chemistry). Granted, there’s definitely something really cool and highly satisfying about lab work: You start with one set of things, and by coaxing the atoms to do what you want, you finish with something different. However labs can also be maddeningly frustrating places in which your precious compound spills, the solvents run out and the glassware breaks. Believe it or not, that same sense of satisfaction that tickles the geek bone can be achieved within the realms of computational chemistry (no lab coat and goggles necessary!). Being able to shed light on mysterious or unexplained experimental data or tackle questions that you simply could not approach experimentally is a good enough justification for me to undertake a computational project.

None of your chemicals are real though. You know that, right?
Yes, thanks for that. Hopefully no amount of project-induced stress will cause me to start believing otherwise. But enjoy carrying out risk assessments for all of yours.

What’s the point then?
Have you ever checked the weather forecast? I bet you have. Simulations can be really, really useful! Over the past decade or so, computers have become incredibly powerful, which means even more accurate simulations are possible- they even get the weather right most of the time now. It’s the same with computational chemistry: many real-life, experimentally measurable material and chemical properties can be predicted by various methods incredibly accurately. This has immense applications for designing new materials as it gives a good indication as to what to try synthesising and fabricating first. The key, as with any methodology, is to know the limitations of each and which should be applied to what.

What do you like most about computational chemistry?
There is something really cool about moving individual atoms and molecules about in a material and getting results out that show how that has affected tangible, macroscopic properties. It’s also a big bonus to gain extremely transferrable skills along the way, like learning a programming language or two. You’ll soon find yourself writing loads of little programs to make all sorts of tasks so much easier or less repetitive. Also, no washing up.

What are the snags?
In this line of work, often what you’re waiting for is the program to predict the lowest energy configuration of the system, which represents its most stable state or ground state. Sometimes this takes ages and quite often the systems just don’t converge at all and you need to rethink your approach and start all over again. You also don’t get to wear a lab coat..…well, not legitimately.

Would you recommend it to a friend?
My advice would be to absolutely give it a whirl or to seriously consider doing so. Dismiss any notions that you’re “not good at maths” or you’re “not good with computers” as the baseless lies that they are if that’s what’s stopping you and either way push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Yes, it probably will be quite a steep learning curve no matter what your background given the intrinsic interdisciplinary nature of the field, but since when was a steep learning curve a bad thing?

With that our anonymous computational chemist scurried back to their lab. So next time you bump into a computational chemist, don’t be afraid to stop and have a chat. They won’t speak in just 011101 and could have some great ideas how to add some computational chemistry to your work, and if not they’ll have a great hummus recipe for sure.

Hoʻohuihui lāʻau in Honolulu (Chemistry in Honolulu)

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Caroline Jones.

In December 2015 four members of the CSCT travelled to the Hawaiian island of O’ahu to attend the 7th Pacifichem conference. Emma Lampard, Rob Chapman, Bill Cunningham and I joined around 15,000 other chemists in Honolulu for the five day conference which is held once every five years.

Views of Waikiki beach and Honolulu from Diamond Head Crater.

Views of Waikiki beach and Honolulu from Diamond Head Crater.

Parallel sessions were held across seven venues throughout the week which meant that though it could sometimes be difficult to decide between sessions, there was always something interesting to see.

A talk which stood out to the group was from John Hartwig who delivered an engaging presentation on multistep and multicatalytic transformations. Impressive tandem reactions were shown which involved initial catalytic C-H functionalisation steps, followed by a second catalytic transformation – allowing for the rapid synthesis of a wide array of industrially important molecules.

Also of note was Phil Baran who works in collaboration with industrial partners in the synthesis of complex natural product and drug molecules on multigram scales. He described elegant and scalable synthetic methodologies developed for key steps in their group’s synthetic routes. Another group highlight was from John Gordon’s research group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This presentation detailed the catalytic conversion of biomass-derived molecules towards linear alkanes for use as fuels; a talk which highlighted the power of synthetic chemistry in wider applications.

Presenting our work at Pacifichem.

Presenting our work at Pacifichem.

Presenting my poster at the Green Techniques in Medicinal Chemistry session was a rewarding experience as I was able to meet researchers from around the world with whom my work was well received. After plenty of discussion at this session I also came away from it with new ideas to try in my future research. Bill, Emma and Rob also delivered excellent talks throughout the conference in varied sessions on catalysis for the upgrading of biomass-derived molecules, applications in organoboron synthesis and materials and tactics for complex molecule synthesis respectively.

Making the most of Pacifichem’s location we also managed to explore the area for a few days on either side of the conference. Highlights included a sweaty climb up the Diamond Head crater, a snorkelling trip to hunt for the Humuhumunukunukapua’a (the Hawaiian state fish) and a group skydive – a truly memorable experience! We are grateful for the funding from the CSCT and the RSC Organic Division Travel Grant Scheme which allowed us to attend this conference.

Our Hawaiian skydive!

Our Hawaiian skydive!

Caroline is working towards her PhD on "Sustainable catalytic methodology for functional group manipulation" with Professor Jonathan Williams, Dr Pawel Plucinski and Dr Steven Bull.

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:


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.


6th European Kesterite Workshop

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Mako Ng.

A trio of CSCT students (Adam Jackson, Suzy Wallace and I) attended the 6th European Kesterite Workshop at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

A little bit of background about us; all three of us are working with an earth-abundant, non-toxic photovoltaic material called kesterite, which is made from copper, zinc, tin and sulphur. Adam also attended the workshop two years ago in Berlin.

There was a student workshop the day before the actual conference, where more experienced students in this field, including Adam, gave talks on their work. They also offered help and gave feedback on experimental results other students brought, which I found very useful.

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

The first day of the conference was packed with talks, from device performance and material properties, to structural properties, defects, ordering-disordering phenomena, and finally device architecture and interfaces. Since all the talks were about kesterite and very relevant to all, the concentration required resulted into coffee running out very quickly during breaks. The majority of speakers were from IREC and HZB, who hosted the workshop in 2011 and 2013 respectively. They are also the key players in this field in Europe.

There was a poster session before the conference dinner. Suzy's poster, which was about using computational chemistry to calculate disorder and inhomogneity in kesterite solar cell, had attracted a lot of attention.


Poster session

The second day started with a technical problem (something that happens in a lot of conferences!). The good thing about that was, the organiser then combined two parallel discussion groups together. Being in the discussion group was like watching season 5 of a TV series before watching the previous seasons! VOC deficit is still a major issue of this material, and unfortunately, no one is able to solve this problem just yet. We also pointed out the band gap varies with different measuring techniques, which made direct comparison between different devices impossible.

Before I could head back to my lab to try out all those new ideas from this conference, I went to another conference in the United States. Watch this space for another blog from me soon!

Mako is working towards his PhD on "Solution-processed solar cells from earth-abundant elements" with Professor Mark Weller, Dr Aron Walsh and Dr Philip Shields.


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


📥  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:


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.



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!



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.


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).


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.


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.


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...


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!


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.


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).


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!


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


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


📥  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.


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?

"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?

"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’?

"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?


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

"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