Earlier this year I applied for the Gold Scholarship Summer Opportunities Fund* in order to help fund two projects I had planned. One was a 2-week chemistry lab project with one of the university research groups. I knew that other people applying for the fund were jetting off to exotic places, so I was really pleased when the Scholarship recognised the opportunity I was able to secure here in Bath.
I knew I wanted to do something useful with my summer so earlier in the year I asked my academic tutor if she knew of anyone in the department who would be willing to take a first-year student. She very kindly sent an email round the department and thankfully Dr Alexander J. Cresswell said he would let me take on a small project in his lab.
The Cresswell Group are an organic synthetic research group, looking into the use of photoredox catalysts to develop new reactions. These reactions allow new synthetic methods that are of high value to medicinal chemists.
Over the two weeks, I was producing new photocatalysts. I learnt how to correctly plan a reaction including how to fill out a COSHH form and how to effectively keep a lab book, consolidating and adding to my learning in first year labs. I was able to try lots of new techniques that many undergraduates, and certainly first years, would never normally have the opportunity to do.
I especially enjoyed being able to run NMRs on my products as we had spent a long time learning about the theory in lectures. It was exciting to be able to run these analyses myself and see what we learnt in lectures being carried out in actual research.
I also had the opportunity to go to the University of Bristol with the group. They were looking at a possible collaboration with a physical chemistry group there. It was interesting to see how two very specialist groups work together on the same project to further the research.
I worked alongside two postgraduate students, who helped me set up and run my reactions and gave me lots of advice regarding lab techniques, university life and careers. Hearing about their PhDs showed me the hard work they put in every day but also how rewarding it can be. Talking to them has made me think that postgraduate education is something I want to consider in the future.
The most valuable thing I’ve gained from this experience is confidence in my own ability in the lab, and by the end of the week, I was able to run reactions almost independently. I hope I can take this confidence as I go through my degree to enable me to throw myself into new learning opportunities. I am extremely grateful to Dr Cresswell, his postgraduate students and the Gold Scholarship Programme for this opportunity.
You can read all about my gymnastics project in this blog post.
*The GSP Opportunity Fund provides Gold Scholars with an opportunity to apply for funds to support their participation in personal development activities. The Fund has been made possible due to a generous gift from a GSP mentor/donor. If you are interested in contributing to the fund, please contact Molly Southwood, Deputy Director and Head of Alumni Engagement: firstname.lastname@example.org