Having failed in my initial career as a chef, I moved into chemistry (the closest to cooking I could get in science). Now I live in London, play as a pacey left winger in a 7-a-side football team, and work in nanomaterials research.
My pronouns are:
I play with materials to change their behaviours so they go from being interesting-for-scientists to being useful-in-the-real-world. The approaches generally involves dissolving them in liquids or sticking bits of chemicals onto the side of them.
I work with high aspect ratio nanomaterials, meaning materials which are ~1 nanometer thick but much much much longer/wider. This includes materials made of sheets that are only a couple of atoms thick, but millions of atoms wide. The extreme thinness and extreme wideness means they are really strong, really lightweight, and do weird things with light and electrons (Im a chemist, so that last bit gets very confusing for me – its what the physisicsts worry about). When we make these materials, they initially are stacked together so we cant get to their surfaces so we need to split them up into seperate sheets so we can put whatever we want on their surface. I do this by dissolving them using some clever chemistry
My Typical Day:
After I cycle to work (45 min through central London) for 10am, my day is split into checking emails, chatting with scientists about or work, playing in the lab, teaching undergraduates, and writing to the governemnt asking for money. I go home any time between 5-11pm depending on what needs doing – but its all on my own terms as I basically work for myself, working on whatever area of science I find interesting, which is very lucky for me. I wouldnt change it for the world.
My lab work involves a lot of microscopes, lasers,
What I'd do with the prize money:
People underestimate how much surface nanomaterials have, so I’d like people to really get an idea of just how much area there can be. In a small vial, I’ll put a tiny amount of nanomaterial (100 mg graphene) and buy a giant roll of fabric. In schools, I’d like students to unroll the fabric and mark how big an area they think is in the nanomaterials in the vial. The fabric wont be too expensive, so with the rest of the money, at each school the student who guesses closest will win £50
I mean, the short answer pretty much covers it. A normal roll of fabric is 122 cm wide, so 0.01 grams of graphene (about the weight of 3 eyelashes) would need to be unrolled 21.5 meters. I dont think people would guess just how much they would need and its hard for people to grasp how much stuff you can squeeze into such a small area with nanomaterials. With batteries, you need to put lithium on the surface to store it when the battery is charged, so by using these cool new materials you can squeeze so much metal into such a small space to make the battery hold more electricity. It lets people visualise just how big the surface is, and a cash prize is really what people tend to want.
I was OK but not amazing at school (St Edwards) in my hometown of Poole, Dorset, and worked a job in a restaurant while I was doing my A-levels in their 6th form. I underperformed expectations for A-levels and did worst in the sciences, which was a pity because I loved science and hated maths, but carried on with chemistry as my teacher really made me care about it. I ended up going to Cardiff University over my original 1st choice as the enviroment at the open day was a lot more relaxed and they didnt seem as arrogant, and I wanted a friendlier enviroment. That was a raring success, so I stayed in science for my PhD which I earned at Imperial College London.
GCSEs, 4 A* (Maths, Stats, Double Science), 4 A (RE, French, Geography, Eng Lang) 3 B (Business Studies, Music, Eng Lang)
A-level, 2A (Maths, Philosophy), 2B (Chemistry, Biology)
Masters in Chemistry at Cardiff University (1st)
PhD in Chemistry at Imperial College London (“Innovative Routes to Single Walled Carbon Nanotube Composites)
Pot washer at local restaurant (age 13-16)
Chef at the same restaurant (age 16-18)
Cloakroom of student nightclub (age 18-22 during undergrad)
IT network support (age 19-22, during summers at Cardiff)
Postdoctoral Researcher at Imperial then UCL (age 26-29)
Research Fellow (age 29-now)
Ramsay Research Fellow
As a fellow, I dont work doing the science of a professor, and instead direct my own research. Its the most junior independant position, and involves a lot more paperwork and less lab-work than when I was doing my PhD. My research looks into nanomaterials for fuel cells, solcar cells, and batteries
UCL & The Society for Chemical Industry
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic Materials Advocate
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My A-level chemistry teacher (Mr Whitehead)
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
A coulple of times
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
My dad once challenged me to a LAN game of Quake 3 not knowing that it was something I had spent hundreds of hours playing with friends. The results were humbling
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
the ability to instantly clean clothes and avoid laundry, perfect eyesight, the portal device from Portal
Tell us a joke.
What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?