Postgraduate Chemistry

Uploaded by unibirmingham on 21.05.2012

My project is broadly based around materials chemistry so more specifically I’m looking
at a mineral called Shapaltsikite which hasn’t been studied much previously but it’s found
in very few places in the world. We’re looking to enhance the magnetic behaviour of the compound
and also increase its electronic conductivity with a potential for use in some form of possibly
oxide iron conductors for fuel cells or maybe as a new material for batteries.
For my PhD my project is based on the area of analytical chemistry. Specifically I’m
looking at a mass spectrometry technique which is based on a mild de-ionisation technique.
I’m looking at the analysis of lipids and optimising strategies of analysing different
types of lipids such as polar and non-polar lipids and we’ll be looking at these lipids
in normal and diseased tissue types to see if we can find a way of finding disease markers.
So this is an x-ray diffractometer, one of four that we have in the department, and they’re
essential for use in solid state chemistry because very few other techniques are applicable
to large periodic solids. So these allow us to apply x-rays through the sample and then
depending on where the x-rays diffract you can detect what the structure of the original
compound is and other properties such as the atoms that are inside it and various other
parameters. I use this in my research day to day. This is one of the workhorse techniques
effectively for determining what you’ve made in the lab and once you know what you’ve
made you can go on and do further analysis on it.
During my undergraduate degree at Birmingham I did a fourth year Masters project with the
same supervisor I do my PhD with and again it was involving lipid analysis and it was
involving optimising the ionisation pathway of those lipids and that’s something that
I’ve continued to look at beginning my PhD work.
The fourth year’s a lot more independent, you get to specialise a lot more in the areas
that you want to look at so two thirds of my time is taken up by writing a dissertation
in a certain area of chemistry and then the other third is filled with lecture courses.
My fourth year project currently is natural product extraction for use as an anti-leukaemia
drug so I’m currently extracting a certain molecule from a weed and then modifying it
and then testing it with cancer studies on human blood and tissue samples.
A PhD involves a wide variety of activities. Predominantly you’re doing research day
to day in the lab and directing your own research with your supervisor helping you to direct
it as appropriate. More specifically there’s other opportunities available to postgrads
such as teaching opportunities and seminars and various things throughout the year. At
the end of a PhD you have to write a thesis summarising your work and also undergo a viva
Chem-Soc is the chemistry society for the university so we currently organise events
such as guest lecturers –
Charity events, quizzes, all sorts of different social events and it culminates in the end
of year Chemistry Ball.
A great deal of the undergraduates attend. The society’s actually open to undergraduates,
postgraduates and academics, so the Chem Ball is normally between 100 and 200 people.
We try and keep everyone involved and get everybody mixing.
I originally decided to come to Birmingham for a number of reasons. I particularly liked
the course because of the wide variety of different topics that were covered and also
I liked the area and the general ethos of the department. There's a good balance between
work and play.
I originally decided to come to Birmingham because I really liked the campus and the
admissions team were very friendly as well which made me want to come here.
I wanted to live at home in my first year and stay with my family and after looking
at some of the local universities, Birmingham really stood out from the others for me and
I decided that if for whatever reason I hadn’t got in in my first attempt if you like, then
I would sort of do more courses and retake A-levels to make sure I got into Birmingham
because it was the favourite place I’d seen and I was really keen to come here.