What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I enjoy the freedom to pursue any avenue of interest within the nuclear fuel cycle remit, which is conveniently where my interests lie.
Why did you decide to stay in higher education after completing your undergraduate degree?
After spending a year in industry working for AstraZeneca as part of my University of Manchester undergraduate MChem, I realised that I enjoyed doing scientific research. In order to progress within an industrial environment, possessing a PhD was necessary.
Why did you pick The University of Manchester?
The city of Manchester has always held a special place in my heart, whether for its significant musical heritage or the lead it has taken in reinvigorating the North of England. However, my reasons for picking The University of Manchester for both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies are that Manchester offered exactly what I wanted in terms of a fantastic education in chemistry and opportunities to engage in nuclear science - and Manchester has a rich heritage in both.
When it came to my postgraduate studies, The University of Manchester was home to the Nuclear Fission Research Science and Technology (FiRST) Doctoral Training Centre (DTC); a centre of excellence for four-year interdisciplinary advanced PhD projects. It allowed me to take control of my own research in radiation science and write my own PhD research proposal.
How did you find the research support and facilities on this course?
The Nuclear FiRST DTC took care of everything, allowing me to start up my research in the then-new Dalton Cumbrian Radiation Research Facility. In addition, it encouraged and facilitated research placements at the National Nuclear Laboratory’s Sellafield site and at the Université Paris-Sud Laboratoire de Chimie Physique, so I could use their unique fast electron picosecond pulse radiolysis rig (ELYSE).
What have been the main differences between your experience of your PhD and undergraduate degree courses?
I had the freedom to choose my own approach to research and naturally learn from the mistakes I made.
What did you most enjoy about your research?
Having access to facilities that allowed me to handle plutonium and americium - elements relatively few people get the opportunity to work with.
What did you most enjoy about living and studying in Manchester?
I have a soft spot for the city of Manchester and have done so from a young age. Being able to live and study in a place that influenced all my favourite music is quite an opportunity.
How did you fund your study, and do you believe it to have been a worthwhile investment?
All my postgraduate funding was provided by the EPSRC via the Nuclear FiRST DTC.
What do you think was the most valuable aspect of choosing to study at The University of Manchester?
Strong links with the nuclear industry through the Dalton Nuclear Institute and the School of Chemistry’s Centre for Radiochemistry Research.
What skills and knowledge from your postgrad studies are most important to you?
Essentially all of them. There are only a handful of radiation chemists left in the world, so the radiation science skills and knowledge I’ve acquired through my PhD are invaluable to me, my career, and the nuclear industry as a whole.
It would have been virtually impossible to get to where I am now without the skills and knowledge base afforded by my PhD.
How do you anticipate your qualification will help you in your career?
It would have been virtually impossible to get to where I am now without the particular skills and knowledge base afforded by my PhD. In all seriousness, they don’t let just anyone play with radioactive material!
What advice would you give to students hoping to pursue a similar career path?
Firstly, select an undergraduate degree option that facilitates a year in industry. You’ll find out pretty quickly whether it’s something you want to turn into a career, in addition to it providing significant experience and influential references.
Secondly, select a postgraduate degree that you enjoy. The more you enjoy doing your research, the more successful you will be - and the more employable.
What are your career ambitions and what do you hope to be doing and achieving in 10 years’ time?
I hope to have migrated to a US National Laboratory position and started to establish a radiation science program.