James Senior

PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry

James Senior

The chemistry department at the University of Manchester attracts very talented and intelligent chemists and students. The most enjoyable aspect of my course was building relationships with other people in the Chemistry department and learning from their experiences.

Current occupation: Research Scientist

Company: SWITCH Materials Inc.

 

What route have you taken to get to your current position?

Following the PhD program I did a postdoctoral fellowship at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia under the supervision of Dr Robert Britton.

While at SFU I was introduced to Neil Branda, whose research of photo- and electrochromic compounds is the basis of SWITCH materials' technology and through this meeting I was hired by SWITCH.

What does this position involve?

SWITCH Materials is a research and development company. Its focus of research is on the commercialisation of a 'smart window' product for the automotive industry. The technology uses photochromic, diaryl ethene based, compounds that undergo a ring-closing reaction driven by ultra-violet light. This ring-closing reaction is observable as a colour change from faint yellow to dark blue; the reverse reaction can be driven by applying an electrical current to a solution of the compound.

My role comprises of two distinct areas of research; I am involved in the design and synthesis of new photo/electrochromic compounds and development of a formulation to support the switching compounds in a film format.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

The work is very challenging; the problems we are trying to overcome are not simple, this makes the design of experiments and discussion of possible solutions more interesting.

I am learning a lot of new skills, particularly in formulation chemistry. I also enjoy being able to apply the knowledge from my synthetic chemistry background to problems faced in the synthesis of new molecules.

What did you most enjoy about your course?

The chemistry department at the University of Manchester attracts very talented and intelligent chemists and students. The most enjoyable aspect of my course was building relationships with other people in the Chemistry department and learning from their experiences.

What skills/knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

The most important skill I learned during my education was how to be a good scientist, plan experiments, and to ensure that you are doing the right experiments to answer the questions you want to answer before you start.

What advice would you give to students applying for the same course that you took?

Your PhD is the best chance you have to immerse yourself in your chosen area of specialisation. You are surrounded by experts to help you to understand and all of the tools for learning. I would recommend putting aside some time every week to read the literature and get a broad understanding of the area of research you have chosen.

Make use of the people around you; you can learn a lot from discussion with your peers. Try to become familiar with other research going on in the department. Other people in the department may have valuable input for ideas to overcome a problem you are facing and vice versa.

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