Ah fell at the last hurdle! Congratulations Sarah and thanks to everyone who voted for me and asked awesome questions! :)
Churchfields Secondary School, Swindon (1998-2003), New College, Swindon (2003-2005), University of Leeds (2005-2008), University of York (2008-2009)
8 GCSEs (3 A, 5 C), 4 A-levels (Maths A, Chemistry C, Physics D, Music Technology C), BSc (Applied Chemistry), MSc (Green Chemistry), MRes (Sustainable Chemical Technologies)
Holiday Inn (2003-2006), The Spotted Cow pub (2008)
PhD research student
University of Bath
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love trying out new chemical reactions that no one has done before because you just don’t know what will happen. They can fizz, bubble and sometimes even explode. They can also be lots of different colours, but most of the time they’re yellow!
Im a chemist working on environmentally friendly ways of making medicines. Which means I have to design complicated molecules without posioning anyone or blowing anything up!
The aim of my research is to improve the way we make medicines and make them more sustainable. Current ways of making pharmaceuticals (a fancy word for medicine) produce lots of waste that needs to be disposed of and can use a lot of energy for heating, sometimes to as high as 200 oC. Common medicines like paracetamol (a painkiller) and salbutamol (for asthema) can produce as much as 100 kg of waste for every 1 kg of pharmaceutical made. I am helping to reduce this waste by using catalysts (which can speed up reactions and reduce unwanted byproducts) and light (which can be used instead of heat) to make these processes more efficient, reducing the impact on the environment and also making them cheaper!
Molecular structures of some common pharmaceuticals.
Molecules are made up of atoms joined together in different shapes. The lines show where the atoms are joined together and the letters indicate atoms of different elements; O = Oxygen, N = Nitrogen, S = Sulfur and H = Hydrogen. The corners where the lines meet are all Carbon atoms, but these aren’t written because there are so many.
My Typical Day
Drink lots of tea, eat chocolate Hobknobs, send a few emails, go to a lecture, come up with ideas for new reactions, try new reactions, watch them explode, clean up the mess, go to the pub with friends.
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What I'd do with the prize money
I would spend the money on chemicals and travel expenses for school visits to our labs, so that young people can have hands-on experience of how chemical reactions happen.
My department already runs a ‘Synthesis and Spectroscopy day’ where a class of 30-50 school pupils visit our labs and get hand-on experience of doing chemical reactions to make useful molecules, as well as taking part in demonstrations of the analytical equiptment we use to identify what we have made. I would put the money towards chemicals, equiptment and travel expenses to extend this so that we can run more days and make it available to a wider audience so that more schools can take part.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Food, Drums, Rugby
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I have just finished writing a chapter of a textbook. It is a great feeling to know my work is in a book, even if no one reads it.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not that often, but I did have my fair share of detentions.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Muse, I have seen them live at Wembly stadium TWICE! I also listen to a lot of trance and drum & bass to give me energy when Im in the lab all day.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I play drums and used to be in a band when I was in college. We played lots of gigs including the NEC arena in Birmingham and a 2 hour headline set in a pub for all our friends. We also recorded a CD which was a lot of fun!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Win the Nobel prize, visit the Amazon jungle and eat a whole pack of Hobknobs in one go.
Tell us a joke.
Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel prize? … He was out standing in his field