Newsletter

Issue 6
June 2022

In This Issue

  • Editorial
  • Student Profile – Anna Morrell
  • Placement at Syngenta
  • Student Profile – James Mottram
  • AERC in Seville
  • A visit to the Diamond Synchrotron
  • Molecules to Product Webinar
  • Student Profile – Emma Thompson
  • PGR Publication
  • Dates For Your Diary
  • Contact Us

Editorial

Cohort 3 started working on their projects in February 2022 and are now preparing their transfer reports.

Cohorts 1 and 2 are continuing to work on their projects, are looking to attend conferences and organising placements.

Everyone is looking forward to the Annual Conference which will take place on 13th & 14th July 2022.

Student Profile – Anna Morrell

Background:

I completed an MChem in Chemistry at the University of Sheffield in 2019, carrying out a Masters project looking into the shear properties of modified cellulose in the Ryan-Mykhaylyk research group. Following this, I worked as a graduate research assistant for seven months in WMG, based at the University of Warwick. Here, I worked on a project linked with an industrial partner, which involved exploring the role of polymeric dispersants in lithium ion batteries.

Why I chose the Molecules to Product CDT:

Over the course of my undergrad degree, I toyed with the idea of doing a PhD but wasn’t sure exactly what area of chemistry I found most interesting. It wasn’t until my Master’s project that I realised how much I enjoyed researching polymers and their properties and thought more seriously about doing a PhD. I didn’t want to go straight from university into a PhD so decided to take a gap year to confirm a PhD was right for me. I worked at Warwick to get a feel for research which not only confirmed my enjoyment of chemistry but also highlighted the need for a PhD in order excel within both academia and industry. I chose the Molecules to Product CDT for a few reasons; namely the ability to fully tailor your project to your research interests and the focus on the link between molecular structure and their properties in a final product, as I really enjoyed seeing the applications of the dispersants that I was working on.

My Project:

My PhD project explores the synthesis and characterisation of poly(amino acid) nanoparticles formed through a combination of ring-opening polymerisation and polymerisation-induced self-assembly and focuses on the structure-property relationship that these nanoparticles afford. These are biodegradable and biocompatible alternatives to polymers currently used in controlled release applications.

Interests outside of the CDT:

In my spare time, I enjoy keeping active and getting outdoors, particularly to go running and am currently stuck between deciding whether to train for a marathon or to continue trying to beat my current PB at Leeds Half. I also enjoy travelling and have just got back from a trip to see the sloths in Costa Rica. When I’m not exercising or on holiday, I like going to the pub with my friends for a pint or a bottle of the finest private bin (iykyk) and always have a book on the go.

By Anna Morrell

University of Leeds Annual Student Sustainability Conference

The UoL Annual Student Sustainability Conference (SSRC) was held in hybrid mode this year with a mixture of online presentations and an in-person poster exhibition, showcasing the work of students across the university in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme of focus this year was SDG 13: Climate Action, with talks involving research into greener energy solutions, climate visualization, sustainable transport and materials. Ashley Victoria from SMP (Soft Matter Physics) works as a sustainability architect for the university Sustainability service, and has been looking at assessing the use of plastics in the many labs across campus, in line with the university pledge to reduce single-use plastics (SUPs) across all operations by 2023. A major focus for her has been to understand the needs of different lab users and the complexity of various lab activities, by developing a questionnaire that has been beta-tested over the last few weeks. This has helped identify viable ways to reduce SUP use in labs without hindering research.  She presented a talk at the SSRC on looking at ways to make labs more sustainable and won Best Visual Poster for her poster related to hints and tips to help reduce SUPs in labs. This work is ongoing, and there is much more to learn! If you would like to contribute to the evolving questionnaire, please follow this link https://forms.office.com/r/r6R02Rt8d4.

Links to all the presentations from the day are available at https://sustainability.leeds.ac.uk/student-sustainability-research-conference/ssrc-2022/schedule/.

Placement at Syngenta – Raphael Stone

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a 6-week placement at the Process Studies Group (PSG), a group based at Syngenta Jealott’s Hill site in Berkshire, UK. The role of this group is to provide scientific support across the product development and production lifecycle, whether that be in initial synthesis, crystal form and solubility screening, processing route development, and post-formulation studies of product activity and stability. As one of the world’s leading agrochemical and crop-protection companies, Syngenta’s goal for all of their products is high-performance and value for money. It was thus interesting to see the vital role scientific research and understanding can play in insuring this, and, on a personal level, how skills I am currently learning as part of my PhD can be applicable to the development of commercial products. The department contains a broad mixture of physical organic chemists, particle scientists, process engineers, and mathematicians, and inter-disciplinary working is not just encouraged but vital to ensuring the success of projects.

Projects for members of the group are typically allow for a high degree of freedom to explore the latest technological developments – such as continuous-flow processing and the use of Process Analytical Technology (PAT) – to gain the required improvements in scientific understanding. My project focussed on making use of their expertise in Population Balance Modelling (PBM) of crystallisations in batch to extract kinetics of crystal growth of a model small organic molecule compound (Succinic Acid), making use of in situ ATR-FTIR spectroscopy. As part of my PhD, I am aiming to transfer this approach to continuous crystallisation, which may offer the opportunity for more rapid screening and optimisation of crystallisation conditions. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Jealott’s Hill, and I’m looking forward to continuing work on this project. Many thanks to Jenny Webb and Neil George for the opportunity, and for everyone there who made me feel so welcome!

By Raphael Stone

Student Profile – James Mottram

Background:

I completed my integrated masters in chemical and energy process engineering here at Leeds back in 2020. During these studies, I also undertook work in business strategy at Urenco, a nuclear fuel enrichment company, and became a trustee for the charity Gap-Africa supporting children and local communities in Kenya. In September of 2020 I began my studies in the Molecules to Product CDT.

My Project:

My project focuses on the costly transition of utilising a catalyst previously effective in batch processes, for continuous flow applications. This research involves the application of novel 3D printing techniques, redesigning catalysts for use with aerogel supports, and statistical design of experiment to optimise the catalyst and process flow conditions. The main aim is to develop and effective prototyping protocol to enable future time, and cost savings in the development stage of catalysts for continuous flow applications.

Hobbies outside of the CDT:

In my spare time, I enjoy collecting vinyl records and attending car shows. I also enjoy road trips around the country, and I am planning to take trips further afield in Europe and the US.

By James Mottram

AERC in Seville – Will Grant

During the final week in April I attended the Annual European Rheology Conference in Seville. I made a poster to be presented at the conference. There was a new e-poster format where I was required to submit my poster digitally alongside a short video summarising the poster in advance of the conference. This meant that there were no physical poster presentations to avoid over-crowding in the venue.

On the Monday evening a tour around an old palace in Seville was organised followed by tapas and drinks for all the guests that attended. The next day was the first full day of the conference where the day started off with a key-note talk for an hour and then the rest of the day was interspersed with shorter 20 minute talks. It was great to see first-hand just how far-reaching the conference was and how many different students and academics are invested in the rheology field. It was also refreshing to go to some talks that were not directly related to my project and how a different perspective can be taken for successful research, especially seeing how the experimental work is conducted which is far away from what my project involves.

I had a great time soaking in what Seville had to offer during my down time when the conference was not on. There were plenty of bars and restaurants in the city to keep me occupied and it was a shame that my stay was too brief to make better use of them. It was a fun experience going to a conference like this and I hope to be able to be part of some more during my time as a PhD student.

By Will Grant

A visit to the Diamond Synchrotron – Kuda Chingono

Diamond Light Source is a state-of-the-art synchrotron facility at the Harwell Campus in Didcot. Researchers undergo a competitive selection process to conduct their experiments at the facility, beam time (a working slot) is scarce. Naturally, I was quite surprised when one of my supervisors, Dr Nick Warren invited me to carry out some experiments with a fellow postgraduate researcher at the I22 Beam line at Diamond. Two other colleagues came along on the allocated beam time. Since these were the early days of my research, I was nervous but appreciated the exposure to the different facilities available. The sheer magnitude and complexity of the operations at the synchrotron was astounding. It simply bears testimony to the scale of innovative research being carried out there. Along with my colleagues, we wandered around reading previous research and collaborations at Diamond, in the form of posters around the site. It took a couple of hours for the technicians to set up the configuration for experiments in the experimental hutch. After basic safety and operational training on the online Small Angle Scattering Instrument (SAXS), I had the opportunity to carry out some analyses over three days in a shift pattern with colleagues from Leeds. I found the control systems complex at the beginning but got to grips with it and enjoyed the work. As a team, we collected a large amount of data, that will yield insights relevant to our different projects. Overall, I found the experience stimulating as I am learning new skills and techniques, that are a crucial element of my work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author thanks his supervisors (Prof. R Bourne, Dr N. Warren and Prof E. Martin) for their guidance up to this point, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecules to Product (EP/SO22473/1) for a studentship in collaboration with AstraZeneca UK. The support of Diamond Light Source for this visit is also acknowledged.

By Kudakwashe Chingono

Molecules to Product Webinar

In the latest of our series of webinars we saw presentations from Sam Meredith (Cohort 1) and Callum Hutchinson (Cohort 2). Below is an overview of Callum’s presentation:

Callum Hutchinson

Over the past year, I’ve made progress with my project which I was invited to share details of at the CDT webinar. The overall aim of my research is to study the structure stability relationships of asphaltenes through the use of synthetic model compounds and apply the learnings from this investigation for the design of new dispersants. My presentation reviewed the devised synthetic route for creating model compounds and how I can incorporate a variety of functionality. The figure attached shows an example of a model compound that was successfully synthesized in the laboratory and a corresponding crystal structure. This structure, and other model compounds resembling it, can be examined in solution once introduced into anti solvent conditions and the resulting aggregate sizes can be recorded and compared with samples of real asphaltenes. Finally, further work has been completed looking at the baseline effects of a typical asphaltene dispersant (DBSA) on asphaltene particle sizes and will form the basis of future work on dispersant design.

 

Student Profile – Emma Thompson

Background:

I studied for my MChem at Bangor University, where I worked on numerous research projects including part-time employment as a research technician. My undergraduate research projects involved working with nitroreductase enzymes and magnetic nanoparticles for a novel prodrug cancer therapy, as well as the synthesis and applications of Guanidine-based organocatalysts. I decided to do a PhD as I wanted to improve my skills as a researcher, focusing on the characterisation of nanomaterials, and expanding my knowledge of physical and chemical biology.

Why I chose molecules to products:

The CDT in Molecules to Products offers the opportunity to develop a research project of a multidisciplinary nature along with the potential for collaboration with other members of the CDT and industry. This appeared as a unique opportunity for me as I was keen to explore how my research interests can work alongside the CDT themes with my focus on product characterisation.

This CDT also provides its students with a network of like-minded researchers and training that is tailored to offer support and guidance whilst enabling you to expand your skill set as researcher that I feel will be beneficial to my development.

My project:

My project aims to explore the heterogeneities present within lipid and polymer based nanoparticle formulations intended for drug delivery. This will involve the investigation of what size and morphological differences are present, how these can be effectively characterised, and what differing physicochemical properties they may possess. The goal is to understand if more needed to be done in terms of nanoparticle characterisation and whether this research can assist in contributing to not only improving but identifying issues earlier on in the development cycle of nanomedicines.

My hobbies outside of the CDT:

I spend my weekends enjoying Formula one (patiently waiting for those Mercedes upgrades), reading a good book, and trying to spend as much time as I can being outdoors exploring the British countryside with my personal tour guide – that would be my dog. I am also hoping to focus more of my time on gardening due to my recent success in the survival of my house plants (fingers crossed).

By Emma Thompson

PGR Publication

Ashley Victoria from cohort 2 has recently had her paper ‘Use of interleaved films for the development of all cellulose composites (ACCs)’, accepted for publication in Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing. The paper outlines a novel method of ACC production that combines interleaf cellulosic films with cotton textile reinforcement to create ACCs with enhanced interlaminar adhesion between textile layers. A parameter of interest in this work was peel strength, a measure interlaminar adhesion between bonded materials. The study found that by placing additional matrix material in between textile layers in the form of a cellulosic film, peel strength could be significantly improved when compared to ACCs produced without the film. In addition, improved stress-transfer was obtained, leading to improvements in properties such as Young’s modulus. This paper can be found here.

Dates For Your Diary

  • Molecules to Product CDT Annual Conference 13th & 14th July 2022
  • Molecules to Product – Webinar 21st September 2022
  • Cohort 4 Induction Week w/c 3rd October 2022

Contact Us

    

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecules to Product

Visit our website here

Email us: moleculestoproduct@leeds.ac.uk

Previous versions of our Newsletter can be viewed using the links below:

Newsletter Issue 1

Newsletter Issue 2

Newsletter Issue 3

Newsletter Issue 4

Newsletter Issue 5