Newsletter

Issue 2
February 2021

Welcome Cohort 2!

Editorial

Well 2020 was certainly a challenging year for us all!

In October 2020 we welcomed Cohort 2 to the CDT.

We were unable to hold the residential event that we had initially planned to run for Cohort 2, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Whilst this was disappointing, we were able to run the induction online. This, of course, presented a challenge in itself. Ensuring that the induction covered team building and initial training, as well as social events where everyone could get to know each other without actually meeting in person. The Feedback we received from Cohort 2 was very positive, with comments such as:

‘The induction was good and not too much pressure which I enjoyed. My favourite sessions were the talk by Alex and the how do you portray molecules to product at the current time’.

‘The staff did a great job at making us all welcome in quite an informal, relaxed week of activities’.

‘Very nice insight into the timeline of a CDT project and the various milestones reached along that journey’.

In This Issue

  • Update
  • Staff Profile – Professor Anwesha Sarkar
  • First Formal Progress Report
  • Student Profile
  • 5 Top Tips For Responsible Innovation
  • CDT Timeline
  • Contact Us

Update

Cohort 1: Are currently working on their projects and continuing to work in labs where appropriate.

Cohort 2: Have been developing their PhD projects over the last couple of months, with academic members of staff and Industry Partners, and are now starting to work on their projects.

Cohort 3: Applications are now open for Cohort 3. We have recently interviewed a number of applicants (round 1).

The closing date for round 3 applications is 19th April 2021.

Please see our website for further information on recruitment to the CDT.

Staff Profile

Professor Anwesha Sarkar

CDT Molecules to Product Role: PhD Supervisor and Theme Lead of Product Functionalisation and Performance

I am Professor of Colloids and Surfaces in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds. After studying BTech in Dairy Engineering (1999-2003) and MS in Food Technology (2003-05) in India, I worked for 1.5 years in industry before deciding to do a PhD at Massey University, New Zealand (2007-10), where I studied the ‘interfacial aspects of digestion of emulsified lipids’. After completing my PhD I joined Nestlé Research Centre in Switzerland as a Project Manager (Scientist), where I invented new soft matter- based applications. I then moved to the Nestle Headquarters as a Global Innovation Project Leader, where I led highly strategic cross-category technology-led projects. Following this I moved to academia and joined The University of Leeds in 2014, where I now lead an international research team of 3 Postdocs and 6 Postgraduate Researchers. I benefitted a lot from my industrial experience, and learnt how to apply cutting edge science across disciplinary boundaries.

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I am truly passionate about my research area of colloids- physiology interactions, and I am particularly interested in generating mechanistic insights on how multiphasic colloidal structure designed from sustainable materials interacts with human physiology at multiple length scales to address global health challenges. I am co-supervisor for a Postgraduate Researcher from Cohort 1, with Dr. Olivier Cayre (The School of Chemical and Process Engineering) and Dr. Simon Connell (The School of Physics and Astronomy) on an exciting project linked to fate of polymeric microparticles in aquatic ecosystems and designing new biodegradable ones from wastes, which has a direct impact on sustainable innovation.

First Formal Progress Report

Once the students begin their PhD research their focus turns to the details of submitting their first formal progress report (FFPR). The FFPR is submitted with 4 months of starting the PhD and helps the students articulate the knowledge gap and research challenge to be addressed during their studies. Particular attention is given to defining the research hypothesis and objectives and providing an initial review of key literature that underpins their research.

The first formal progress report is all about defining your project and that means finding out what has already been written about your subject area. There is a lot of information out there and it can be overwhelming, but this process helped me to refine my research questions a lot, which helped narrow down my literature search. The FFPR creates an opportunity for you and your supervisor to work closely together and build a working relationship. Although stressful at times, I found the FFPR very enjoyable and feel more knowledgeable about my research project. It’s a good way of identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then working on them to help you with your research. It is a good feeling when you have submitted the report knowing that you have done your best and that you have gained something from this experience.

By Amna Khatun (Cohort 1)

Student Profile

Harrison Johnson-Evans

Background:

Chemistry (MChem with a year in industry) at the University of York. I spent my final year on placement at Sygnature Discovery (Nottingham), working within the DMPK department. My final year research project combined analytical chemistry with biology: developing an in vitro assay to determine the extent of lysosomal sequestration of potential drug candidates.

Why I chose Molecules to Product:

Molecules to Product offered an opportunity for multidisciplinary as well as industrial collaboration, both of which were attractive to me as I greatly benefitted from a cross-disciplinary project while on my placement year. In addition, the bespoke training courses that focus on professional development as well as technical skills, were also a strong selling point for me. Probably the most influential factor, however, was being a part of a cohort. The idea of a cohort, for me, eased the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study. Further, it allows the almost instant formation of friendships, which was a daunting prospect as I was moving alone to a new city. Working in a cohort also allows peer-to-peer learning, a method of learning that I have benefitted from in the past and have continued to benefit from in the first few months of study here in Leeds.

Project:

My project involves the use of immobilized enzymes in conjunction with continuous flow. In addition, reaction telescoping with up/downstream chemo-catalytic steps will enable access to complex building blocks that can be used in the synthesis of fine chemicals. The project encompasses synthetic chemistry as well as chemical and mechanical engineering, with a supervisory group that reflects these disciplines.

Interests outside of CDT:

I am a keen baker, with chocolate orange brownies as my specialty. In order to counteract the baking, I also ‘enjoy’ going to the gym and playing sport (football and hockey). I’m currently trying to read more. Lately I have read “Perfect Match” and “Small Great Things” both by Jodi Picoult as well as “How to Stop Time” and “The Humans” both by Matt Haig- I would recommend all four books! Additionally, when working from home started, I started to schedule at least an hour of French into my daily routine – a habit which I hope to continue.

By Harrison Johnson-Evans (Cohort 1)

5 Top Tips For Responsible Innovation

Early on in our training we were introduced to the concept of responsible research and innovation (RRI) and how this would be a key part of our projects, but what did that mean? And how could I apply it to my project in practice? So I decided to find out more: was it just a case of involving society more ‘for the greater good’? Being more open about my research, sharing methods and data or was this something extra? As researchers we have a duty to ensure that our research does no harm and that we have considered the wider impact of our work both in the short-term and long-term. This helps to avoid negative or unintended consequences further downstream by the end-users of the products or processes. The problem is that whilst RRI is considered an increasingly important aspect of research its implementation is limited. One of the reasons for this is that the area and definitions of it are still evolving. Unclear how to go about implementing RRI practically, I came across an RRI toolkit produced by the EU (https://www.rri- tools.eu/). This provides useful tips and tools for stakeholders on different strategies that can be used to implement RRI. I found their 5 top tips the most useful and could see how they could be applied to projects in our CDT.

Anticipate, Reflect, Engage and Act.

1) Think about what society wants
Is my project going to add value to society? How? Why? We need to be focusing on projects which achieve socially desirable outcomes i.e. the needs and expectations of society and be conscious that these may be changed and shaped by unforeseen global issues. The public becomes involved at an earlier stage and are not just thought of as end-users. In my case, improving the stability of emulsions and formulations during manufacture and storage would lead to less generation of waste. The use of biologically derived particles would also lead to less greenhouse gas emissions.

2) Involve a wide range of actors and stakeholders
Collaborate with others policymakers (funders), researchers, industry, civil society organiser’s educators and the public. By involving more stakeholders in our research we share the responsibility for the decisions made. This helps us to produce inclusive projects incorporating a wide range of opinions from an early stage leading to more sustainable and socially acceptable projects.

3) Consider all possible impacts
Who will the research effect and how will it affect them (socially, economically, environmentally)? The most challenging aspect of this is anticipating future impacts when there are a lot of uncertainties at the start of a project and how many years ahead should we be thinking? To resolve this we need to think about the world we would like to create for future generations.

4) Be open and transparent
Communicate results and methods to stakeholders at all stages so that informed decisions can be made. This type of collaboration improves the quality of research and leads to more positive outcomes.

5) Act and respond
This is probably the most important aspect and one of the areas which researchers find the most challenging. Our approach to project management needs to be flexible to adapt to changes in the demands of society. We need to listen and acknowledge the diversity of opinions expressed, reflect on our research and respond to them by changing the methods or goals of the project if necessary.

By Janine Preston (Cohort 1)

CDT Timeline

The Annual Conference will be held with all industry partners.
Students also attend a weekly Journal Club, fortnightly Peer to Peer Learning sessions and weekly / bi-weekly Mentoring Sessions.

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:

https://sway.office.com/KOoy5t5yOaFH3oL8?ref=Link