Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: Jon Chouler

A Chemical Engineer on a Project Management internship at Wessex Water

  , ,

📥  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.

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.


ChemEngDay 2015

  , , , , , , ,

📥  Events, Prizes & awards, Seminars & Conferences

Four students from the CSCT: Stephen Bradley, Dominic Ferdani, Richard Maltby and Jon Chouler, recently attended and presented posters at ChemEngDay 2015, hosted by the University of Sheffield for IChemE. The event had over 350 Chemical Engineers from academia and industry. This report is written by 1st year PhD student, Jon Chouler, who also received the first prize for his poster in the Food and Water category.

ChemEngDay 2015 was held in the magnificent Sheffield City Hall, and upon arrival on Wednesday morning at 9 am,  it was clear that the conference would be a good one.  Posters were displayed on subjects ranging from food and water, to innovative materials, and engagement and outreach. Stalls from industrial sponsors were a plenty too, and IChemE also had plenty of interesting displays up.

The day kicked off with introductory talks from Prof Mike Hounslow on the history of Sheffield engineering (interestingly started off from donations by nearby workers nearly 100 years ago), and Prof Geoff Maitland about the importance of Chemical Engineering in our world. An exaltation of our importance was  enabled by an excellent “how we make a difference” through Chemical Engineering competition, where we had to write in few words on how our research makes a difference in the world.

The first plenary lecture of the day was given by Joroen van der Veer, former CEO of Shell, with some very inspiring words on scenario development for driving a business, as well as leadership models for creating change and impact in a company. As well as giving some very interesting insights into the global energy future from a petrochemical company perspective, he also highlighted the importance of young chemical engineers in inspiring the next generation of engineers.

On the afternoon of the first day,  I attended a series of lectures on water and food security. Prof David Butler discussed the impending ‘Perfect Storm’ that approaches us relating to water, food and energy scarcity. He also previewed some very interesting work that looks at addressing this issues by ‘thinking globally, but acting locally’. Jon McGagh presented on water and energy challenges that are prevalent in the mining industries in Australia, and it was hearkening to learn about how serious these challenges are to the planet, as well as the need for excellent engineers to overcome these. Lastly, Constantijn Sanders from Nestlé, discussed his perspectives on sustainable food, which myself being an avid community gardener in Bath, was very fascinating. The key to enabling sustainable food he suggested was in creating stability in access, availability and use of food. His analysis of the nitrogen cycle of growing animals for protein also highlighted that we could all create a big positive impact f we reduced our meat based food consumption. However, I don’t think some are ready to give up the steaks just yet.

With the formal lectures for the day concluded, all the attendees descended upon the beautiful Cutler’s Hall for an excellent dinner, and a chance to talk to fellow Chemical Engineers, as well as to let loose and have a boogie to the Sinatra-esque tones of the Paul Pashly Band. Stephen enjoyed it very much as you can see:

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we arrived nice and early for the final day of ChemEngDay 2015. I attended a series of lectures on Education and Outreach for engineers, which was run as a very discussion based session with a good amount of dialogue and experience sharing throughout. Jarka Glassey and Eva Sorensen gave fascinating talks on engaging and motivating first year chemical engineers through the use of problem based learning very early on in the course, which indeed sounded like a very effective learning tool for undergraduates. Mark Haw presented his work as part of Really Small Science, an initiative that engages young children through experiments and exhibits to educate and inspire them all about nanotechnology. As someone who really enjoys engaging younger audiences with my research, it was really helpful to hear the experiences of someone who does this very well.

The day progressed with a poster session over drinks (of course), where I got to present my own poster on how Microbial Fuel Cells can be used as water sensors for developing countries, as well as to peruse the excellent amount of research that is going on at various institutes for Chemical Engineering.

Poster session

The day concluded with Philip Wright giving the closing words on the day in the Memorial Hall, and also with prizes for the best posters at the conference. Low and behold, my poster received first prize in the Food and Water category and I received a shiny new iPad mini!

So all in all, an excellent conference with so many fascinating and inspiring talks. I for one will most certainly be attending next year’s ChemEngDay at the University of Bath (and not only because it’ll be very local!).