Newsletter

Issue 4
November 2021

In This Issue

  • Editorial
  • Student Profile – Callum Hutchinson
  • Cohort 3 Induction
  • Student Profile – Emily Wynne
  • Molecules to Product Annual Conference
  • Cohort 2 Away Day
  • Kickstart your Policy Engagement Programme Review
  • Student Profile – Will Grant
  • Dates For Your Diary
  • Contact Us

Editorial

On 1st October, we welcomed Cohort 3 – Gabby, Kuda, Robin and Sudeshna to the CDT. They initially attended a week-long induction, which included icebreaker activities, training, and team building exercises. The initial part of the induction took place on campus, followed by 2 days at Weetwood Hall, where there were opportunities for the Postgraduate Researchers (PGR’s) to meet academics, industry partners and members of the CDT management team.

The Cohort gave some very positive feedback on the induction, such as: “A perfect blend of academia and industry,” “The Industrial Problem areas presentation sessions, really made an impact, the range of partnerships and areas the CDT tackles are wide. It helped me realise that areas where I can learn and apply myself are vast”.

The Cohort are now working on their initial training programme and will continue with this until Christmas.

In September we held an Away Day at the Royal Armouries for Cohort 2. For some of the Cohort it was the first time they had met each other in person, due to the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic!

Cohort 1 are busy working on their research and are starting to plan the CDT in Molecules to Product Annual Conference taking place 13th & 14th July 2022.

Student Profile – Callum Hutchinson

Background:

I studied my undergraduate degree in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Leeds. This included a year in industry working for Procter and Gamble where I worked on perfumes in laundry powder. I came back to Leeds to do my masters degree which was based on diazo chemistry and chemical proteomics. During my masters degree, I realised how much I enjoyed doing research and delving deeper in to a subject that I had a real passion for. I’d seen an advertisement board in the chemistry building for the Molecules to Product CDT and hence I applied to do a PhD with the CDT.

Why I chose the Molecules to Product CDT:

I became interested in the Molecules to Product CDT as I wanted to engage in multidisciplinary research. I enjoyed the chemistry I explored at both undergraduate and masters level, but I wanted to broaden my horizons and explore more of the chemical and process engineering I’d learnt about whilst on my year in industry. Further to this, being able to help solve real world problems that a wide variety of industry partners were invested in was a really exciting prospect. The CDT also presented the opportunity to undertake placements, both at home and abroad, which would enable me to gain access to a range of facilities and institutions. As well as this, the 4 year program would allow for development of my skills as a researcher and an individual through a series of training courses – including plenty of chances to go on conferences and attend webinars.

My Project:

For my research project, I’m looking at the structure-stability relationships of model asphaltene molecules and the implications for dispersant design. Asphaltenes are polar chemically complex compounds and are found in heavy fuel oil which is used to power container ships. They are problematic due to their tendency to aggregate and cause issues with engine performance. The research therefore aims to better understand and determine the critical parameters of asphaltenes that govern their stability. This will involve synthesizing molecules to act as models for asphaltenes, before they undergo physicochemical characterisation. Comparisons can then be made with the behaviour of real asphaltenes to then inform the design of new dispersant molecules for solubilising them.

Hobbies outside of the CDT:

I’m a regular gym goer and enjoy playing golf (weather permitting!). I’m a Doncaster Rovers fan and I really missed going to games when lockdown restrictions meant they were played behind closed doors, so I’m excited to return to watch the Rovers play. I like getting my teeth into a good boxset and I’m currently watching all of ‘Dexter’ before it is being rebooted in November. I’m a big foodie although I’m not particularly good at cooking! I play piano and trumpet and enjoy listening to a wide variety of music but my favourite singer is Craig David. I’m most looking forward to being able to go on holiday abroad again especially since I’ve got a trip to Thailand booked in February next year which, finger crossed, I’m hoping can go ahead!

By Callum Hutchinson

Cohort 3 Induction

Summary

The induction was quite interesting. It kicked off with welcome sessions where members of the cohort met each other for the first time and met the staff involved in the CDT. Fun games and teambuilding activities such as building paper straw towers really helped us to get to know each other, and how we work. The early induction activity was followed up by sessions at Weetwood Hall in Leeds, where we had presentations from different academics and industry presentations from the CDT’s partners. The sessions were eye openers and reflected the depth of the CDT’s relationship with its industry partners. A wide range of challenges and potential research areas were shared, and this set the stage for discussion for the future research project. We also benefited from informal engagements and mingling between staff, industry partners and members of other cohorts. They brought in different perspectives, helpful advice, and experiences.

By Kudakwashe Chingono

Visual Representation of the CDT

As part of the induction course we were challenged to make a visual representation of the molecules to product CDT. The idea was to create something that could be used in outreach to explain what we were doing. A few basic materials were supplied and it was up to us to come up with the concept. We decided to follow sugar from beginning to end. Everyone picked a part of the process from modelling molecules, factory process to finished products. Then each item was brought together to explain the process. It was a good exercise to get us all thinking about what we were doing and give us a chance to work together to solve the set problem. It also made us think how we would explain what the molecules to product CDT was about, to anyone, whatever their level of understanding.

By Robin Winder

Dr Charlotte Willans – Products and Processes

Dr Charlotte Willans’ talk was inspiring and informative. It covered how unplanned changes could turn into great opportunities in the future. It particularly focused on the idea that you don’t have to keep working on the exact same topic and can explore other available areas. It nicely highlighted how working on research can be challenging and require a lot of work, but ultimately be rewarding. One of the main points that I enjoyed covered collaboration and that approaching others can not only reveal different perspectives, but it can also lead to long-lasting friendships. Dr Willans also realistically emphasised how life will not only revolve around research, but you will experience major events which could affect your work. It was a very informative session, filled with lots of good advice and interesting insights into research.

By Gabriele Sumanskaite

Dr. Christina Nick: Responsible Research and Innovation: Introduction to Ethics

The induction week hosted by the Molecules to Product CDT, was one to remember for years to come. I was quite apprehensive about starting my doctoral studies as I was the only member of the cohort who had no prior connect to the University of Leeds. However, my nervousness faded away the more I communicated with the members of the CDT and cohorts 1 and 2. The group activities, from “What’s in the box?” to building a paper straw tower, provided us with the perfect opportunity to get to know each other, as well as, gave me the reassurance that I am in a safe space.

Out of all the events, I found the “Responsible Research and Innovation: Introduction to Ethics” afternoon session by Dr. Christina Nick, at Weetwood Hall to be very insightful. Prior to this session, I had a proper understanding what responsible research meant, or so I thought! Dr. Nick’s session was an eye- opener. I had not realised that research and ethics were intertwined so deeply. Her presentation elucidated the responsible research and innovation aims at advancing science that benefits our society in an inclusive manner. As a researcher, it should be my responsibility to analyse the impacts of my works, contemplate the potential consequences and the public reception they may receive, and most importantly, work towards engagement and discussion in an all-encompassing manner. Such an action will guide the course of my research and innovation. Without pondering the implications of our innovation, we may bring about moral ambiguity in terms of its influences on our society and the environment.

Dr. Nick was remarkable at explaining how such an ambiguity effects all of us in the long run. Her skills of engagement were outstanding and I felt that I was able to connect with my fellow cohorts much better after that session. She was perceptive, conversant and well-informed in the philosophical principles of scientific research and innovation. I enjoyed this session very much and look forward to working with her in the future.

By Sudeshna Roy

Student Profile – Emily Wynne

Background:

Originally from Birmingham, I completed a MChem at the University of Nottingham. In my fourth year, I joined the Nottingham Nanocarbon Research Group with my Master’s project being supervised by Professor Andrei Khlobystov. My project involved the treatment of carbon nanotubes for increased ion transport to an encapsulated species.

Why I Chose the Molecules to Product CDT:

I spent the lockdown of 2020 writing up my Master’s report and it was here that I realised how much I enjoyed research so looked into starting a PhD. It was also during this project I was introduced to different analytical techniques for the characterisation of materials, and it was here that my interest in materials characterisation, particularly at the nanoscale, started. I was therefore drawn to this CDT as one of the main themes was product characterisation, so I knew my interests would be accommodated here. The links to industry and the ethos of doing research for “real-life” applications also drew me in, as I find research with motivations like this the most interesting.

My Project:

My project involves looking at layered organic materials, replica leaf wax model systems and polymer nanomaterials, using electron microscopy (EM) techniques at spatial resolutions that bulk analytical techniques fail to achieve. Nanoscale structure determines key properties in many organic multi-component systems. Identifying and understanding these structures at a scale of 1-100s of nm holds the key to understanding their performance. Due to the intensity and energy of the electron beam, beam damage to the sample is unavoidable in EM techniques, particularly in organic materials which are more prone to this damage. Therefore, my project is also looking at characterising how prone the materials are to damage, and applying low dose electron microscopy techniques to minimise the electron exposure to a sample, presenting the opportunity to truly explore nanoscale phase mixing in organic layered products.

Interests Outside the CDT:

I enjoy travelling and visiting new places both in the UK and abroad. I managed to go on holiday in 2020 to Kraków but have unfortunately not been able to travel anywhere since, so I am looking forward to ticking more places off my list when travel becomes easier again. I have recently started going to the gym to improve fitness and although I am unfortunately not particularly good at any sports myself I do enjoy watching them, especially football being a West Brom fan (we’re going up! / we’re going down if you’re reading this in a year). On a day-to-day basis I enjoy spending time with friends, going to the pub and attempting arts and crafts and I am also slowly working towards a book reading challenge I set for myself at the start of the year.

By Emily Wynne

Molecules to Product Annual Conference

The first Molecules to Product CDT annual conference took place between virtually through Microsoft Teams on 12-13th July 2021, with students across cohorts 1 and 2 showcasing current progress in their research. The multidisciplinary nature of the M2P CDT ensures that a wide breadth of research is presented from a number of different departments (i.e. chemistry, chemical engineering, food science, maths, physics) making for a captivating event. Accompanying student presentations were panel discussions, led by cohort 1 students, with focused topics (formulation and sustainability) in-line with the themes of the CDT. These discussions allow for discussion between academia and industry providing students with valuable insight into the inner workings of a number of different sectors within the chemical industry. Plenary speakers at the event were Jonathan Powell from Cambridge University with a talk titled ‘Great Discovery: But Then What?’ and Susan Reutzel-Edens from the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, who both spoke about data inspired medicine development.

Plans are already underway to organise the second annual M2P CDT conference next summer which should be in person (fingers crossed!).

By Anthony Griffiths

Cohort 2 Away Day

As we are all aware, 2020 was a year dogged with lockdowns, isolations and novel coronaviruses. This unfortunately coincided with the beginnings of our lives as PhD researchers and what turned into four months spent bouncing between Microsoft Teams meetings and Zoom break out rooms.

We turned up to the Royal Armouries trembling with excitement for the first opportunity to spend an entire day in person as a CDT cohort. After 5 glasses of orange juice and 8 pain au chocolates, I brushed off the pastry crumbs and sat down among my peers.

Professor John Blacker’s talk, describing his career (so far), was a particular highlight of the day. It was incredibly motivating to hear how rewarding, multifaceted and unique a life in science can be. It was the perfect example of how a scientist is edified with the gumption and creativity they put into their work.

A presentation from Dr Fernando Climent Barba also provided an opportunity to hear from a scientist much earlier into their career. Just days previously Fernando had passed his PhD viva, something that remains a foreboding mystery to myself and the rest of the cohort. The fact that he still had a smile on his face and summarised a satisfying PhD full of enjoyment put to rest some fears of a harrowing ordeal others had described the final months of a doctorate to be.

Next came lunch. What a feast; canapés upon canapés, salmon en croute, foie gras and foundoux. With a stomach bursting with goats cheese tarts and tuna mayo sandwiches I felt fully prepared for the next two hours of highly competitive spaghetti tower building. Teams were assembled and silence ensued. On your marks… get set… A scramble for sellotape and several brawls followed. In the midst of the action I noticed Dr Andy Brown slip some strands of pasta into his pocket. 2 hours later and spaghetti towers of Pisa were touching the ceilings. Everyone was a winner.

The day ended with a tour de force of Italian Cuisine from Ciao Bella. Although disappointed at the lack of crossbow shooting at the Royal Armouries, I was delighted with the banquet on offer. Penne dripping in a blanket of mascarpone and mushrooms. Fresh pizza dough topped with cured meats hand-picked from the local delicatessen, stone baked to perfection. After several after-dinner pints of Yorkshire cask ale with my fellow students I stumbled home weary but fulfilled. All in all, a first-class day out.

By Lawrence Collins

Kickstart your Policy Engagement Programme Review

This month I took part in a policy engagement training programme pilot, run as part of a collaboration between the Institute for Government, Policy Leeds, and the Leeds Social Science Institute (LSSI). The programme was developed to help researchers and students to learn more about policy making, and to understand better how they can engage with policy makers about topics related to their work. The programme was split into 4 modules and involved some self- study work to complete before each session. These modules covered the landscape of government and an outline of how policy is made how to engage with the right people who can influence policy, developing your networks, and communicating your research to different people, for example experts, general public, and policy influences. We had the opportunity to discuss our thoughts in breakout rooms, and practice talking about our work and getting feedback.

The area of policy making was completely new to me before I started this programme, and so I was unsure how hard I would find it, but I have to say I found it super engaging and interesting, and it moved at a pace that was easy to follow. I learnt a great deal about policy and found lots of helpful resources to help me in my journey as a researcher, trying to make change. I am quite early in my PhD but the programme was designed to suit people at different levels of their study or work, and provided all the resources needed to find the right path of engagement to suit you. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone interested in policy making, I have to say as a result of taking the course, I now find policy making less complex, and a great deal more interesting! There is a plan to run the programme again in the future, you can find out more information here and express your interest by clicking this link: Kickstart your Policy Engagement Programme.

By Ashley Victoria

Student Profile – Will Grant

Background:

My background is in Maths, I studied for my bachelors degree at the University of Southampton and followed that up with a masters degree at the University of Leeds. My focus throughout my studies was applied maths, particularly fluid dynamics which lends itself well to other natural sciences.

Why I chose the Molecules to Product CDT:

I chose the Molecules to Product CDT because it offered the opportunity to work in a cohort of students from many different backgrounds, whilst undertaking a PhD project that tackled real world problems. The programme also offers training courses throughout for personal and professional development that allows you to develop in a holistic way, that offers the opportunity to go into academia or industry, so you don’t become pigeon-holed.

My Project:

My project aims to tackle the problem of polymer flow induced crystallisation in computational fluid dynamics. The idea behind this being that fully understanding how polymer crystals form under flow means that the final desired crystal structure within the polymer can be achieved solely by tailoring the processing conditions to suit. This will help to reduce waste and increase efficiency within polymer processing.

Other Interests:

Outside of studying I enjoy going to the gym and swimming. Sadly once the pandemic hit and restrictions were put in place, swimming had to be put on the back burner. Instead I managed to get into calisthenics training at home which I continue to this day; this means that I do not need a gym membership anymore!

By Will Grant

Dates For Your Diary

  • Molecules to Product CDT Annual Conference 13th & 14th July 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