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University of Warwick (2012-Present), Imperial College London (2007-2012), Cardinal Newman College (2004-2006), Ulverston Victoria High School (1999-2004)
MSci Chemistry, 3 A-levels English, Biology, Chemistry, 1 AS Level Maths, 12 GCSE’s.
University of Warwick-Laboratory demonstrator, Firmenich-trainee scientist, RSC library-dogsbody,Care work, Morrisons, Woolworths..
PhD Student (Chemistry)
University of Warwick
Favourite thing to do in science My favourite thing is defintely to make new molecules. It is so exciting when you make something and know that no-one on the planet in the history of mankind has ever made that molecule before.
I am a scientist at the University of Warwick
I work in a chemistry lab at university where get make new things and then see how they react, just to see if anything interesting happens! I am trying to make molecules shaped like an ice cream cone that can be used to trap smaller molecules inside them. I put metals on my ice cream cone because they are good at making other molecules react, even when they don’t normally want to.
These can take weeks to make a new molecule and involves lots of chemical reactions and then a lot of testing to see if I made what I was trying to make-because we can’t see individual molecules. If we manage to make big crystals from them we can shine X-rays through them to make 3D pictures of what they look like.
Work can be really fun, I especially like doing reactions that change colour, or using smelly molecules (I used to use a lot of molecules called thiols that smell like farts). But sometimes my work is very frustrating, like when I work really hard and my reactions don’t do what I want them to do. The good thing about this though is when your reaction FINALLY works everyone on the team gets very excited!
My Typical Day
Playing (“working”) in the lab!
I normally come into the office at about 9am and check my emails. On Mondays we either have a meeting with the group where we tell each other about cool things we have read about science or how our work is going or I go and talk to my boss about how my research is going-this always involves trying to figure out how to overcome new problems that we spot so it’s nice to have someone elses help.
As soon as I can I get into the lab and turn all of my equipment on. We use vacuums to pull air out of our reactions because some of our molecules react with air so we have to use special gases like nitrogen or argon that REALLY don’t like to react. I normally have a reaction that I have left over night that I need to check on. Here is picture of my fumehood where I work (sorry about the mess!) and our lab;
I then go and have lunch with my work friends and have a LARGE cup of tea and we chat about lots of things, not always science but sometimes we have very nerdy conversations (we once had a debate about which animals have the highest percentage of fat in their milk).
In the afternoon I set up new reactions and run some analysis with the help of other people at the university who are much better at using the big machines like X-Rays and NMRs (special magnets) than me-in fact they are some of the best people in the world at using them!
Now I am near the end of my PhD I have to try and write about my work too, this I find really hard and not as fun as being in the lab but is very important so I can explain to everyone all about the work I have been doing and pass my exam!
Then I cycle home and hang out with my flatmates and walk the dog if it’s not raining. Sometimes I go to the pub with work friends and we play pool or do a quiz. Or I just zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
What I'd do with the money
Do some demos/talks in the local community
I’d really like to put on some small events in the local community that are open to people who do not normally get a chance to learn more about science. There are a few local groups that I’d like to get involved in and offer something to. School is such a wonderful place to learn about science and if you are on here you are lucky enough to have enthusiastic teachers who want to expose you to science in all sorts of ways! I don’t think other people are so lucky, I would love to root out some of these people in my local community and show them why I think science is fun (hopefully involving some noises, gunge, fart references and help from my universities outreach team!).
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Imaginative, busy and noisy.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Thai curries or chocolate
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I went and lived in Kazakhstan for three months
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not very often-but sometimes for talking and being loud with my friends :/
What was your favourite subject at school?
Science, English and Drama
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Worked with some amazing scientists from all over the world and passing on things I’ve learnt to younger students
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I don’t remember a specific event- I’ve just always wanted to understand how things work
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
A critic (food ideally think of me of a sciencey/less bald Greg Wallace)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would love to have the ability to stop time-there are never enough hours in the day! I would also like to be able to sing and catch all 151 original pokemon
Tell us a joke.
What’s it called when the Queen of England farts? A noble gas.
Safety is very important when working in a lab and we take it very seriously, but sometimes we can’t help but laugh at how silly we look (especially when we have to use the face shield). I don’t normally wear this much safety gear but you have to wear safety goggles and a labcoat whenever you go inside the lab.
Here is a picture of a molecule we looked at using X-rays, the purple ball is an atom I managed to trap inside it (Yessssssssss!!!)
This is a picture of everyone I work with..our bosses name is “Chaplin” like Charlie Chaplin so whenever anyone new starts we make them pose with a hat and moustache. Very important “team building”!
This is a picture of one of my reactions. The reaction happens r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y so I heat it up to try and make it go faster. It also reacts with air so I have to do it in this glassware with a lid (not a beaker or a conical flask like you might expect to see in a lab). All those different colours are from the iron metal that is in there, you normally think of iron as being that red rust-colour that you often see but actually it can make a lot of different colours (this reaction changed from red to green and blue which is pretty cool to watch, I think my workmates are jealous of this one!)
This is the “Glovebox” this has almost no oxygen (less than 1 oxygen molecule per every million molecules inside) instead it is full of Argon which doesn’t like to react. This is really good for using and storing reactive chemicals-I made one chemical that spontaneously catches fire in air which is very handy to keep in here. These cost about £30 000 has thousands of pounds worth of chemicals so we are pretty carful to look after it.