Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: Internship

Three months of working at Departamento de Fisica-Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil

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📥  Internships & visits, Research updates

First year PhD student Serife Ustuner went on a three-month internship at University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil. We asked her how she got on.


Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a first year PhD student in the CSCT and I am based in Electrical & Electronic Engineering Department of University of Bath.  My research looks into development of Electrochemical Detection techniques for diagnosis of disease such as cancer.

First of all, what made you go all the way to Brazil for your internship?

Some good networking by the end of my MRes project! I met Marina Batistuti, who had been an exchange PhD student from University of São Paulo (USP) within my supervisor’s lab. I had no idea that there was such a huge electrochemistry community in Brazil. We never lost contact after she left, so I decided to go for a PhD project on electrochemical detection for disease diagnosis after finishing my MRes project. My supervisor, Dr Pedro Estrela has an ongoing partnership with University of Sao Paulo and he recommended me to consider this great opportunity. So one email, a couple of skype meetings and the plan was set to meet Marina and her supervisor in USP, Prof Marcelo Mulato. A couple of months after, I found myself on placement at USP in a beautiful forest land, within heart of Brazil!

Crossing a river with a buggy placed on a boat – Natal, Brazil

What made you pick an academic setting over an industrial one?

To be honest, it’s an offer that comes once in a lifetime, I just couldn’t miss out. The challenge was real! I had six-weeks of time frame and so many tasks to overcome;

  • Moving to a completely different country, where English still remains a massive barrier over communication with locals.
  • Adapting to a completely different research environment.
  • Finding ways of getting my project essentials delivered all the way to Brazil.
  • Being introduced to completely new instruments.
  • Having no time for exploring more about the instruments, but making them work for my own research.
  • I could feel the clock ticking in my head constantly, we had loads in mind that we wanted to try and experiment while I was there but the time limit was quite challenging.

It has been an educational experience, which I believe is completely different from doing solely an academic or industry based internship, especially talking in terms of adaptation and time management skills.

Tijuca Forest National Park – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tell us more about your work during this internship in Brazil?

I worked as a researcher within Sensors Lab, that was located in Physics Department of University of Sao Paulo. I was introduced to a mass sensitive detection platform, QCM-d (Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation). The device comes with additional and useful features compare to the traditional one we have here at University of Bath. The aim was working on a design that adopts the device for the detection of a pathogenic bacteria. Electrochemistry is an expanding research area in Brazil and I had the opportunity to attend one of the biggest electrochemistry conferences while I was there, 'XXI SIBEE – Simposio Brasileiro de Eletroquimica e Eletroanalitica'. I was amazed by the variety of research presented during this five day-long conference.

SIBEE Conference 2017- Natal, Brazil

Any interesting facts you would like to share about Brazil?

Couple I have in mind;

  • Their winter is pretty much like summer, even warmer than a British summer.
  • I have never been a big fan of fruits, but the variety and the freshness they had in Brazil made me fall in love with them. I still do miss that.
  • Locals loved calling me ‘Americana’. Although I tried explaining couple times that I am Cypriot and never actually been to America.
  • They are the warmest and the friendliest people ever.
  • Brazilian Barbecue – it’s a strong challenge.
  • PhD Vivas last for at least 6 hours in Brazil, where families/friends can enter and watch with snacks/popcorns. I have attended two, it's a very different/fun experience.

If you ever get such an opportunity to do a research internship in Brazil, I do recommend, with my all heart, not to miss it!

Sensors Lab Group - USP, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil

 

Fuelling the future at the world’s 3rd largest automaker

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📥  Internships & visits

As a brilliant way to get some industrial experience under my belt, shatter my second year blues and to see more of the world, I secured an internship within the research arm of General Motors, one of the great American engineering companies, who in January 2016 were announced as the world’s third largest automaker. I was lucky enough to be put in contact with Dr Anne Dailly, an experienced researcher in the field of energy storage materials, who was immensely helpful in setting up and performing the internship. Shortly after securing my place in the organisation and getting an exchange visa from the U.S. government, I arrived in Warren, MI (just outside of Detroit) in June 2016 eager to kick off my internship.

A Chevrolet Colorado turns statue on the South-West corner of the GM Technical Center campus in Warren, MI

A Chevrolet Colorado turns statue on the South-West corner of the GM Technical Center campus in Warren, MI

I was based on GM’s Technical Centre campus in Warren, a large area of land owned by the company that houses many of its design and research employees. I was working in a relatively modest building on the north end of the campus, but some structures there, such as the vehicle engineering centre, were huge structures housing as many as 10,000 design engineers! The physical size of the land was also imposing, taking 10 minutes to cycle from one end to the other, but served as an excellent illustration of the resource available to the company, and I was excited to learn how that would manifest in the research lab environment.

The Research and Development Chemical Engineering Lab (RCEL), where all the magic happened.

The Research and Development Chemical Engineering Lab (RCEL), where all the magic happened.

I was primarily working with Dr Dailly, looking at boosting the energy content of natural gas fuel storage systems. This was an interesting experience, as we were testing non-conventional equipment for this process, and my role was to try and determine whether a) this experimental protocol was valid and b) what the benefits were. The experiments took a long time to complete and I unfortunately had to return home early, so we weren’t able to complete what we had set out to do, but I still had a very worthwhile experience of life in an industrial research setting, and how the challenges of that environment could be very different to those of university-based research.

I also had the pleasure of attending a couple of meetings to listen to what kind of research was being done by the wider research team at GM. While this information is commercially confidential (and therefore cannot be discussed here), there were some fascinating presentations dealing with a wide range of issues, ranging from fundamental exploratory science to dealing with problems reported by GM customers.

Chevrolet Corvettes new and old on display at the Technical Center

Chevrolet Corvettes new and old on display at the Technical Center

Whilst I was staying in Warren, which is largely a suburban city without a huge number of touristy-type attractions (at least within walking/cycling reach), I did have the opportunity to go into Detroit itself on a couple of occasions. The city has a bad reputation based on the economic struggles of the area and the levels of crime in the inner suburbs, but downtown Detroit is actually a bustling metropolis with lots going on, and I felt it was as safe as any other American downtown. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a concert on the waterfront (next to the Detroit river, and with Canada just across the water!) and to attend a Detroit Tigers baseball game, which was really exciting. I had a great time in Detroit, and would definitely suggest that you shake off the stereotypes and visit the downtown.

All in all, I had a great experience working with GM, one that I was very grateful to both Dr Dailly and the team at GM for making happen and to the CSCT for the generous funding. I met and worked with some great people in a new environment, learnt about the benefits and challenges of industrial research, and came back to Bath refreshed and motivated heading into the final year of my PhD.


Leighton is in the 2013 Cohort of the CSCT and is now in the final year of his PhD: "Design of Safe Hybrid Hydrogen Storage Tanks" with Professor Tim Mays and Dr Andrew Burrows.

 

Novel coatings at NSG Group

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📥  Internships & visits

This post was contributed by Joe Thompson.


I recently spent a month long placement at NSG Group in Lathom, Lancashire. NSG Group is a world leading manufacturer of automotive, architectural and technical grade glass. The majority of glass products manufactured by the company are coated to provide a variety of additional properties such as scratch resistance, self-cleaning, UV reflectance and electrical conductivity.

My time was spent working in the coatings department looking at a variety of new coatings with quite different applications. Whilst on placement I had the opportunity to try out new coating techniques and access analytical methods not available at the University.

The opportunity to spend some time in an industrial lab was invaluable, it showed me both the similarities and differences between academic and industrial environments. Overall I really enjoyed the experience of trying out some new chemistry in a new location and working with a great group of people.


Joe is in his final year in the CSCT working towards his PhD on 'New precursors for application in thin film chalcogenide materials' with Dr Andrew Johnson and Dr Daniel Wolverson.

 

Working towards Food Security with Syngenta

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📥  Internships & visits

This post was contributed by George Gregory.


gregory_syngenta01Keen to gain industrial experience, I spent three months at Syngenta in Jeolotts Hill, Bracknell. Seeds such as corn and soya are coated with active ingredients (AIs) namely pesticides and herbicides to ensure a good crop yield. To reduce “rub-off” of the coating and the generation of dust, which is hazardous to farmers, polymers play an important role in binding AIs to the seed surface.

gregory_syngenta02Working within the formulation technologies team, I undertook a systematic investigation using a Design of Experiments (DoE) approach to investigate how typical polymer properties impact on the coating quality. Amongst many other techniques, a neat image analysis tool was used to quantify the seed coverage.

In total, I was involved in four different projects gaining experience with a range of innovative technologies and coated over 75 kg of seeds bright red (as well as my lab coat) - a dye used in the coating formulation to indicate the AIs present. Working towards the common goal of food security, the theme underpinning everything I observed seemed to be a strong collaboration between people of different expertise (someone had PhD in nozzles!).


George is in her final year in the CSCT working towards her PhD on “Cyclic carbonates from sugars and CO2: synthesis, polymerisation and biomedical applications” with Dr Antoine Buchard, Professor Matthew Davidson and Dr Ram Sharma.

 

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.

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!
jess-aussie-2
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).

 

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!

 

Internship report: Julia Griffen, University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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📥  Internships & visits

Julia Griffen, final year DTC student, undertook a one month internship way back in November at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences:

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The experience was extremely beneficial to my professional and personal development and overall I found it thoroughly rewarding. Predominantly my time was spent preparing undergraduate lecture material on green chemistry. However I was also invited to give a departmental seminar to staff and postgraduates, and in my final week I attended the RSC Pan African Chemistry Network (PACN) conference on Agricultural Productivity Waste and Water.

While at the University, I was able to meet many staff and students, and to see different departments, laboratories, equipment and teaching facilities. From this experience I was able to gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to do chemistry (as we know it) in a developing country, with lack of resources, technical parts, and technical expertise. However these hindrances do not hamper their enthusiasm and passion for their dedicated fields.

Some of the benefits from this internship arose from preparing a lecture course which brought me up-to-date on current teaching methods, materials and current research in the area of green chemistry. I have kept the material for future use. Presenting the departmental seminar to an international audience, predominantly Ethiopian graduate students, gave me experience in this lecturing style. Finally the PACN conference gave me the opportunity to meet many individuals from across Africa, whom I was able to converse over science, sustainability and issues facing scientific development in Africa.

Overall it was an excellent experience, which I would recommend.