Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: Conference

Fall MRS Meeting: Mentoring and Solar Cell Minerals in Boston

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This year I attended the 2017 Fall MRS (Materials Research Society) Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. I presented research conducted in collaboration with Duke University on the properties of selected photoactive minerals, evaluating their potential for use as the light absorbing layer in a solar cell device. In my work, the material properties are predicted from computational simulations using a software package called ‘FHI-aims’, which is developed at several institutions including Duke University. So, in my talk, I was essentially showing off my ‘virtual rock collection’. But the goal was to introduce these materials to the broader research field so that their potential application in solar cells may be explored further with experimental measurements. Conveniently, there were plenty of experimentalists to chat to in my session ‘Earth Abundant Metal Oxides, Sulfides and Selenides for Energy Systems and Devices’.

This was by far the biggest conference I have attended with 6,583 attendees this year, talks between two venues and 54 different talk sessions to choose from! Apart from the enormity of this meeting (and trying to find your way around to get to all the talks in different sessions you wanted to attend!), the new experience for me at this meeting was participation in the ‘Broadening Participation in Materials Science Undergraduate Mentoring Program’. The Broadening Participation in Materials is a subcommittee of the MRS with the aim of promoting diversity and inclusion in materials science. The program I took part in during the MRS meeting pairs undergraduate, underrepresented students with graduate student or postdoc mentors and there is a special program of events and training for mentors and mentees to attend. Mentors and mentees are paired up based on various factors such as similar research interests and the skills each party wished to develop during the program. The mentees present a research poster at the MRS meeting, so mentors and mentees are put in contact with each other before the meeting so that mentees have access to guidance on poster preparation from their mentor if they have any queries.

The mentoring program kicked off with a mentoring workshop on the Sunday afternoon before the first day of the meeting. This was a nice opportunity to meet other mentors, who varied from graduate students such as myself with very little experience of mentoring, to academics who already supervise numerous students. During this workshop, we discussed several very thought-provoking case studies for situations that may be encountered as a mentor and strategies to handle such situations. The diversity in the experience of mentors in the program here made for very interesting discussions, with some mentors having encountered similar situations already as mentors and other mentors having either witnessed similar situations as a bystander or having been on the receiving end as a mentee themselves. There were also exercises to illustrate effective (or not-so-effective!) communication between a mentor and mentee, specifically, the effect of using predominantly ‘yes, and…’ or ‘not, but…’ when steering a conversation. This is something I feel that you need to try to appreciate the effects!

On the first day of the meeting we had our mentoring breakfast when you get to meet your mentee(s)! Prior to this, we were all introduced to our mentees via the messaging software ‘slack’, so I had an idea of the research they were presenting a poster on beforehand. During the  breakfast, we were introduced to ‘elevator pitches’ to pitch the key features of your research in a snappy manner and took part in an exercise of summing up your research in one sentence, a surprisingly formidable task. The next main event in the program was the ‘Using Improv for Communications’ workshop. This workshop made for a nice break from attending scientific talks, to get re-energized ready to head back with a renewed focus for the rest of the talks that day! In addition to some short games to shake off the cobwebs, the workshop focused more on elevator pitches. Another exercise involved splitting off into small groups, explaining the key parts of your research to your partner in progressively short amounts of time after receiving feedback from your partner. It was interesting here to find out what stood out to your partner as the key aspects to highlight and the most effective explanations to use, especially when you only have 30 seconds…!

The main event of the program was the poster session that our mentees presented posters in. As someone with very little experience as a mentor, this was a very new experience to me! I wanted to make sure that my mentees felt I was always available if they wanted to ask anything (the use of ‘slack’ messaging software was very good in this regard), but I also was conscious to not interfere if it wasn’t necessary and to allow my mentees to find their own way around and to enjoy their poster session without feeling like they were under the constant watchful eye of a mentor! This is certainly a delicate balance to strike, and not something I had experienced before. Participating in the program providing some very valuable training and new experiences for me so I would definitely recommend this to anyone else attending future MRS meetings. As a mentor, you also get a special gold ‘mentor’ tag to add to your conference badge, which was also pretty snazzy.


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.

 

Materials Research Society Conference in Boston

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

From 26 November to 1 December I attended the 2017 Boston MRS Fall Meeting. This major conference was a great experience, full of talks and poster sessions covering the hot topics of materials science. In addition, I was lucky enough that this year there was a specific symposium covering the main topic of my PhD, entitled: ‘ESO2: On the Way to Sustainable Solar Fuels-New Concepts, Materials and System Integration’, where I got inspired from experts of the field. I attended interesting talks by Professor Avner Rotschild on Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting for Solar Energy Conversion and Storage, Professor Juan Morante on Solar Refineries for CO2 reduction, Dr Yasuhiro Tachibana on Quantum Dots, Professor Lionel Vayssieres on Design, Performance and Stability of Photocatalyts for water splitting and many others!

Boston Landscape

On Monday evening I presented my poster in the ESO2 symposium, a two-hour long poster session from 8pm to 10pm! The number of people attending the session was massive so I had the opportunity to discuss my work with many researchers and establish research collaborations with other groups. In addition, on Wednesday evening I also attended the second poster session of the same symposium where I met other researchers working in a variety of fields.

Miriam during the poster session and views from the conference building

Even though I spent most of the week attending the ESO2 symposium (about solar fuels) I also attended a few sessions of the ESO3 symposium: ‘Earth abundant Metal Oxides, Sulfides and Selenides for Energy systems and devices’. This symposium was more focused on the synthesis and features of the materials. This is extremely important for energy applications, especially water splitting, since different morphologies and compositions can change a lot the final performance and efficiency of the photocatalyst.

During the conference I also attended other sessions, such as the ‘International Summit of MRS University Chapters on Sustainability and Nanotechnology’. These sessions covered key sustainability topics in a broad manner. For instance, one session covered the background of water splitting and the key topics that need to be tackled to bring this technology into the real market.  Two great speakers of this session were Professor Hicham Idriss from Saudi Arabia and Professor Lionel Vayssieres from China. Professor Idriss gave an overview of advantages and disadvantages that a large scale photoelectrochemical reactor has. On the other hand, Professor Vayssieres highlighted his main research topics and key publications dealing with metal oxides and water splitting.

Furthermore, being in Boston for a week also gave me the opportunity to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus and the MIT museum. The MIT museum was really interesting! It had several exhibitions: Robots and Beyond, Big Bang Data and Holography: Dimensions of light. The Holography exhibition was of particular interest since you could get an insight of how the eyes, brain and light play a key role to create a 3D image.

Robots exhibition in MIT museum


Miriam is a second year PhD student working with Dr Salvador Eslava on the development of metal oxides for solar water splitting.

 

Boston Materials Research Society Conference

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Oli Weber (Cohort '13) and Dan Davies (Cohort '14) recently attended the Boston MRS Fall Meeting 2016. This post was jointly written about their experience.


The CSCT was well represented at the Boston MRS Fall Meeting 2016, with myself, Dan Davies, Jemma Rowlandson (previously Cohort ’13, now University of Bristol) and alumnus Dr Adam Jackson (Cohort ’11, now UCL) in attendance. A major international conference can be an overwhelming experience, especially when it spans, conceptually, the whole of materials science and physically, an entire conference venue and the hotel next door. Much of the week was spent dashing between seminar rooms, trying simultaneously to catch the best talks while working off the effects of overlarge food portion sizes.

I embodied an academic stereotype by writing my presentation on the flight on the way to the conference, having being told at the last minute that my poster abstract could be swapped for a talk. I gave my talk on the first day of the conference in symposium ES3: Perovskite Solar Cell Research from Material Properties to Photovoltaic Function. I spent a fair amount of time in the perovskite session, hearing numerous exciting results, though many of my personal conference highlights came from wandering into seminar rooms with tangential or non-existent links to my own research. I heard Shreyas Shah from Bell Labs speak on interfacing nanomaterials with neural stem cells for neural regeneration, by combining visible light-responsive ion channels and upconversion nanoparticles to transform infrared light transmitted through biological tissue into blue luminescence to achieve optogenetic control of neuronal activity.

Oli takes in the sights

Oli takes in the sights

There were many other great talks, including Yi Cui from Stanford, on thin film silicon photovoltaics, Dan Nocera from Harvard, on complete artificial photosynthetic systems and Yuval Goren on the conservation of clay cuneiform tablets in the Negev desert, which are the oldest written records and provide the only external account of the Trojan war.

Meanwhile, Dan presented a poster in the TC2 symposium on high throughput screening of inorganic materials. The poster sessions at the MRS meetings are always very well attended and quite intense – it can feel like giving a two-hour oral presentation! The work went down pretty well though and it was a great opportunity to discuss it with so many researchers with such a broad variety of interests and backgrounds.

Oli, Jemma and Dr Valeska Ting get a photo during the meeting.

Oli, Jemma and Dr Valeska Ting get a photo during the meeting.

Other than that, Dan spent most of his time in the TC1 and TC2 symposia on computational materials chemistry and materials discovery guided by computation. The work presented in TC2 by curators of the Materials Project, Gerbrand Ceder and Kristin Persson, was particularly interesting as a demonstration of the high-throughput calculations that are now possible with modern supercomputers. On the flip side, the TC1 symposium had some really interesting sessions on machine learning, where it was shown how data-mining and statistical analysis techniques are now being used to predict new materials, thereby avoiding costly quantum mechanical calculations altogether. Anubhav Jain from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab presented some new codes he had developed in order to aid materials scientists who are interested in applying data-mining techniques.

The conference also had some excellent sessions on the ‘Broader Impact’ of materials research. For example, the symposium BI1: Today’s Teaching and Learning in Materials Science – Challenges and Advances, featured some very impressive educational studies on the best approaches for teaching undergraduates and graduates materials science topics. These sessions were ideal for picking up transferable knowledge and tips that could be applied in teaching roles as well as in public engagement activities.

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Oli is studying towards his PhD on 'Optimizing energy harvesting processes in metal halide photovoltaics' with Professor Mark Weller and Professor Chris Bowen.

Dan is currently working on his PhD project: 'Interface engineering for indium-free transparent electronics' with Professor Aron Walsh, Dr Duncan Allsopp and Dr Ben Morgan.

 

Castles and Science: A Trip to the Czech Republic

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Joe Thompson and I arrived in Pardubice with a slight sense of trepidation at the tri-annual Germanium, Tin and Lead conference. It has a strong pedigree for molecular chemistry with world leading inorganic chemists, such as Cameron Jones ,presenting.

We had both chosen to focus on the materials side of our research and hoped it would be included in the scientific discussion. We were pleasantly surprised to find many researchers who would normally be considered to be pure synthetic chemists presenting forays into applied materials chemistry, combining aspects of engineering and chemistry. Due to these cross disciplinary discussions, the conference was very well received with a lot of industry backing. This financial input allowed for some great conference event venues such as the castle pictured.

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Kunětice Mountain Castle

There was medieval demonstrations, a tour around the historic Kutná Hora city and plenty of free Pilsner! The focus on the application of molecular chemistry to solving materials challenges led to many fruitful discussions, with the posters Joe and I presented receiving a lot of attention. This led to new collaborations with groups in Russia, Czech Republic and New Zealand.


Andrew is working towards his PhD on "The Development of Graphene Based Materials" with Professor Paul Raithby, Professor Simon Bending and Dr Andrew Johnson.

 

Green Chemistry conference in Venice

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

The 6th International IUPAC Conference on Green Chemistry was held in Venice between the 4th and 8th of September. The venue itself, the Centro Culturale Candiani, was actually located in Mestre; a town on the mainland located half an hour on the tram from Venice. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to present my work on Interfused Cellulose-Chitosan Hydrogels for Tissue Engineering as a 20-minute talk which was well received.

Two talks in particular caught my attention: The first – by Professor Sato at the National Institute of Technology, Tsuruoka College, Japan – covered the development of a double network ionic gel for low friction material. Double-network gels – which consist of a rigid skeleton polymer network within a ductile polymer substance, enabling high mechanical strength and toughness – are well known. However, the idea of replacing the water present in the gel (often 90 wt% or more) with an ionic liquid interested me as it stabilises the material (evaporation of the water affects the physical properties of the gel; ionic liquids have negligible vapour pressure) and results in a low friction material, even under vacuum and at high temperatures. The second – by Dr Stevens, Professor Emeritus at University of North Carolina at Asheville, USA – presented 12 principles on New Chemistry, intended as “a guide to allow society and chemists to prosper and grow sustainably”. One message that caught my attention was the advocation of interdisciplinary science. The CSCT already encourages co-operation between chemistry and chemical engineering. Although I’m more interested in how we could develop work with social scientists, which surely will be required if we are to effectively address societal demands.

The conference gala dinner was held at the Casinò Di Venezia in the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, where Wagner spent his last days. Entertainment was provided by a local string quartets and a couple of opera singers, with the opportunity to have a free flutter at the tables afterwards. The Wednesday afternoon was spent on a boat trip around the islands of Venice, including Burano (home of the colourful houses) and Torcello Abbey. Whilst it was great to see the surrounding area, I did begin to feel like a trapped animal after a while as excursions on the islands were limited to half an hour. Venice is a particularly beautiful city, although I do recommend either getting up early to meander through the streets before the tourists descend, or being prepared to stay up late. A word of warning though: always keep your bearing as the narrow streets often results in GPS becoming confused as to exactly where you are – trying to find St. Mark’s Square at 1 am proved a particular challenge! Overall, the experience was positive – both from the conference and cultural perspectives – and I look forward to attending the next one.

Venice sans tourists

Venice sans tourists

Conference dinners: the tried and tested method for making new contacts and/or friends

Conference dinner: the tried and tested method for making new contacts and/or friends


Marcus is in his final year in the CSCT working towards his PhD on “Biomaterials for the Cardiac Environment” with Dr Ram Sharma, Dr Janet Scott and Dr Sameer Rahatekar.

 

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.

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.

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.

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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.

 

Trip to Russia: 7th European Congress on Catalysis

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Tamsin Bell who has now moved to continue her PhD at the University of Cambridge.

At the end of August 2015, I attended the 7th European congress on catalysis, Europacat in Kazan, Russia. The conference started with a very formal opening ceremony and two plenary lectures and concluded with a welcome reception where I was able to catch up with a collaborator from the University of Glasgow.

The session I spoke in was “Energy-related catalysis” but I also attended many interesting talks in the other four sections. The research I presented makes use of cobalt as a sustainable alternative to more expensive metals to catalyse ammonia decomposition for in situ production of hydrogen for use in a fuel cell. On the final day of the conference I gave my presentation in a 600 seater ball room. It was an amazing (and slightly terrifying) experience talking about my research to such a large and knowledgeable audience.

Tour of Kazan and Tami in St Petersburg

Tour of Kazan and Tami in St Petersburg

One evening there was an excursion to visit the historical, 1000 year old city of Kazan, which notably included a visit to the impressive Kazan Kremlin. The word Kremlin means "fortress" and there are only four remaining in Russia. At the end of the week, there was a conference banquet with performances from local Russian dancers and we were able to try some Russian vodka, after which many of the academics and delegates were also showing off their dancing skills.

I had a fantastic week in Russia, I met lots of interesting people, I learnt how to say thank you in Russian, Спасибо, which is pronounced "spa-see-ba", I bought a Russian fur hat and I got lots of ideas for my research. I was even lucky enough to visit the beautiful cities of Moscow and St Petersburg on the way back home.

Sightseeing in Moscow

Sightseeing in Moscow

I am very grateful to the conference organisers for accepting me to present my work and for the travel funding I received from the Royal Society of Chemistry, Santander and the Armours & Brasiers.

 

British weather in Brazil...Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy conference

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Joe Donnelly.

During September a trio of CSCT students (Myself, Jonathan Wagner and David Miles) attended Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy (ISACS17), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Joe_Donnelly_ISACS17_01The 12 hour flight from Heathrow was a relatively pleasant affair, despite a lady sat next to me enjoying a 12 hour headphone techno marathon - something which would have been annoying if it was not so impressive. We went appropriately packed for sun, sea and sand, ready to hit Copacabana. Although Dave had forgotten his flip flops this was easily remedied owing to the many flip flop vendors in the area - however, Rio had apparently been saving all of its cloud and rain for our arrival- alas the bottom fell out of our plans (and the bag containing Dave's new flip flops). But after all, we are British and unless we were going to need a dinghy to get to the beach front bars, it was going to happen. When we were not at the conference or supporting the local beachfront economy, we found some time to go and see Christ the Redeemer and a few other local attractions.

Joe_Donnelly_ISACS17_02The conference was attended by around 100 people from a range of backgrounds/disciplines making for an interesting mix. The small size of the conference also allowed for conversation opportunities with most of the presenters. Research topics focussed on upgrading of bio-derived resources- something which I was personally attending for, and also many interesting talks on solar fuels and photovoltaics. It was interesting to see these different disciplines being discussed in the same stream as each other and led to interesting discussions about where exactly each of the technologies would fit in the future energy mix. The conference was concluded by a panel discussion on this very issue, and included representatives from industry, academia and government.

Overall the conference was a valuable experience, with the opportunity to talk to some leaders in the field without them being whisked away to prearranged meetings after their talks. It is worth noting however that there was only one stream, and due to the relatively diverse nature of topics on show, not all talks were of particular relevance to any one person.

Joe is working towards his PhD on "(Bio)catalytic synthesis of a novel transport fuel substitute from industrially produced ferementation products" with Dr Chris Chuck, Dr Marcelle McManus and Dr Chris Bannister.