I enjoy the freedom to think up lots of new ideas - which is even better when some of them turn out not to be crazy and work!
How would you summarise your research to undergraduates?
My group are interested in all aspects of boron chemistry, particularly developing simple routes to form C-B bonds and to transform these C-B bonds to value added products.
I can give you two examples that hopefully demonstrate why this is important. Firstly, organo-boronates (C-B(OR)2) are ubiquitous intermediates used in many chemical sectors predominantly in the Nobel prize winning Suzuki cross coupling which forms new C-C bonds. Our new routes to form C-B bonds are often simpler than established routes and also generate new, previously inaccessible, organo-boronates.
Secondly, organic electronics utilises conjugated organic molecules for diverse applications from OLEDs in TVs to solar cells. Appending a boron moiety (by C-B bond formation) onto conjugated molecules using our newly developed methodologies is a unique way to improve key properties in a highly controlled manner.
What do you think makes the School distinctive?
We are a large department that has enormous diversity, so there are excellent people doing science across the whole breadth of chemistry. This is great for collaborations and for teaching as you’re much more likely to be taught by someone who is a leading researcher in that area.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
It has to be the ‘light bulb’ instant in tutorials and workshops when, with your help, a student achieves that Eureka moment of understanding a new concept.
How do you make your teaching up-to-date, innovative and inspirational?
I’m lucky, currently most of what I teach is directly related to my research interests, thus staying up to date is not a problem! I find discussing with the students the latest breakthroughs, or the latest Science paper in your area is a really great way to enthuse them.
What do you enjoy most about research?
Two things leap to mind: firstly the freedom to think up lots of new ideas - which is even better when some of them turn out not to be crazy and work - and secondly working with lots of bright and enthusiastic people.
What have been the highlights of your career?
It has to be a new process that we took all the way from just scribbles on the whiteboard, to successful trials in the lab, to patenting and finally to having a company license the process and actually use it to make and sell materials.
How long have you been at the School? What keeps you there?
I started in Manchester in Oct. 2008 and found it to be a well-equipped and vibrant department that’s been improving each year. The teaching/research balance is currently fine, allowing me sufficient time to do my best at both.
When a student completes their course, what for you are the measures of success?
The key measure for success is that I’ve taught something they’ve found interesting and that it’s helped to increase their understanding of chemistry as a whole.
How do you think students remember you?
Hopefully not badly! I wouldn’t say I’m a natural orator but I try my utmost for the students across all formats of teaching so hopefully they realise that and appreciate the effort that goes in behind the scenes.