Photo:

Alexander Munnoch

Favourite Thing: Discovering new things/problem solving.

My CV

Education:

Kilsyth Academy (secondary school 1999-2005) and University of Glasgow (degree and doctorate 2005 – now)

Qualifications:

Highers in Art, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, English, Maths and Physics. Degree in Chemistry and hopefully a Doctorate in Chemistry in the not too distant future.

Work History:

I’m still a student.

Current Job:

Ph.D. student (working towards becoming a Doctor in Chemistry)

Employer:

The University of Glasgow and BP Chemicals Ltd.

Me and my work

I make minerals (rocks) useful – industrial chemistry.

I study materials called zeolites – very holey/porous solids that act as both sieves and sponges/adsorbents. They can be natural or man-made and can be used in cement, food, fossil fuel production, gas separation,  nuclear clean-up, water detergents and water purifiers. Without them, the world would not be as it is today.

My own work is on the their use for making greener fossil fuels.

Picture of zeolites – faujasite and philipsite from www.zeolite-collection.eu.

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The holey/porous structure of faujasite (if you zoomed in to the atomic level) from http://www.explainthatstuff.com/zeolites.html

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My Typical Day

Most days are busy and rewarding.

myimage2 I tend to start in the lab 1st. After getting all my safety gear on…myimage3

Once the experiments are set-up and running myimage4 (this is a picture from the ESRF synchrotron in Grenoble, France).

I’ll usually do background reading, data analysis and additional experiments such as SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy – same technique used to get the really zoomed in pictures of flies and pollen etc.) myimage5 (This one is of a mineral called corundum which is about 20x harder than steel!) all between measurements until the main experiments are done. After that I would normally write presentations/reports for my industrial sponsors and ultimately put it all together into my thesis (that I’m writing at the moment).

What I'd do with the money

I’m open to suggestion – message me.

I currently run STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) ambassador activities (http://www.stemnet.org.uk/) and I could use the money to improve demonstration equipment. Having said that, I would actively encourage anyone and everyone to let me know what they think would be a wise use of the £500 prize money (bearing in mind it must be used for science communication!) because it is you that should ultimately benefit from the prize money.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious/open-minded/pragmatic.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

At the moment, a French band called Gojira.

What's your favourite food?

Caramel shortcake without a doubt.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I’ve been lucky enough to work Teri in New Delhi (India) for a month and visit both Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (Jantar Mantar).

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be a chemist (not the pharmacist kind) but felt I needed to learn more before I could figure out exactly what I liked. So I went to university to study chemistry.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Couple of misunderstandings but nothing too serious despite some of the company I kept.

What was your favourite subject at school?

PE (chemistry was a close 2nd).

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I think encouraging others to consider learning about the sciences and how everything works.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve had interest in it ever since primary 3 when I heard they could make snake anti-venom from snake venom. However, I was more directly inspired by one of my chemistry teachers at high school.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Footballer or musician.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To play football internationally for Scotland, have virtuoso guitar ability and to have the powers of Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen.

Tell us a joke.

It’s proving very difficult to find a shop selling “Left Guard” for my other armpit… (by markysumm).

Other stuff

Work photos:

The Joseph Black (chemistry) building at the University of Glasgow and my place of work (night and day) for the last 7.5 years! myimage8

The ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility) in Grenoble, France. http://www.esrf.eu/ where I done EXAFS (Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure) experiments – these studies can tell you the distance between elements spreadout on/through a material.  myimage6.

Teri (The Energy and Resources Institute) in New Delhi, India. Where I worked on a joint India-UK project on Red Mud – a waste product from aluminium extraction. http://www.redmud.org/home.html myimage7.