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Haydon Bridge High School, Loughborough University
Master’s Degree in Chemistry, A-levels in Chemistry, French, History and Physics
Burger King, AstraZeneca, Intelligent Energy Ltd
Favourite thing to do in my job: I enjoy doing chemistry, but I probably like writing about it even more. I love to tell great stories in my writing, and science is full of them.
My Work: I’m playing with a material that was used a century ago to fill Zeppelins with hydrogen (and then forgotten about) to see if I can use it in a pocket sized power station.
In the first half of the 20th century, Zeppelins (airships) were all the rage. Zeppelins were huge balloons filled with hydrogen, with a place for people to sit in stuck onto the bottom. To fill the Zeppelins, they needed a lot of hydrogen, and one of the ways they used to make it was by putting caustic soda, water and a chemical called ferrosilicon into big vats and heating it up until it started to make hydrogen. However, Zeppelins then fell out of fashion, and people weren’t that bothered about making hydrogen for a while, until hydrogen fuel cells started to become popular at the beginning of the 20th century. No one has really looked at the ferrosilicon method to see if it could be useful for modern devices, and so that is what I am doing.
My Typical Day: Put chemicals in corrosive solutions to see if they make hydrogen. Cry if they don’t, dance if they do.
Most of my time is spent in the laboratory doing experiments. However, I also help to teach undergraduate students in their practical sessions, and I write reports on the work I am doing. Sometimes I go to conferences, which are gatherings of scientists themed around a particular topic (such as hydrogen fuel cells, for example) and give presentations or display posters about my work.
What I'd do with the prize money: Run chemistry workshops for primary school children
My son loves science because I’ve always talked to him about it. Most primary school children aren’t that lucky. I would like to get into primary schools and show them just how exciting science, and particularly chemistry, can be. Hopefully those children will be as enthusiastic as my son was when I first showed him what happened when you add bicarbonate sodium to vinegar!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Happy, introverted, competitive
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I had excellent chemistry and physics teachers, so probably them
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne or Weird Al Yankovic
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Lived in Avignon at the time of the theatre festival. There were people in crazy outfits everywhere!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) To have the footballing ability to be Carlise United’s star centre forward. 2) To have enough money to set up my own laboratory and get up to whatever science I fancy. 3) To be able to summon eagles like Gandalf, because it would be an amazing party trick.
Tell us a joke.
I would, but sadly all the best chemistry jokes Argon…