For as long as I can remember, I have loved chemistry and been infuriated by people who, when I tell them that I am a chemist, reply that they always hated chemistry or were completely rubbish at it. Come on! If you tell me you’re an accountant, do I tell you that I think it’s boring or that I can’t do arithmetic?
Chemistry is one of the cornerstones of our world and whether you like it or not you are made of “chemicals”. I want people to embrace chemistry, one of the key ways that we can transform our world. And I try to do this by doing public science, either on stage (especially through the Cheltenham Science Festival), in print or through TV and radio (see for example Elemental Economics for BBCWS Business Daily. I was awarded the Royal Society’s Faraday Prize for science communication in 2015.
In my research, I have long explored the chemistry of lanthanides (or rare earths), exotic-sounding elements at the bottom of the periodic table but which light up our world. You can hear more about this in my Life Scientific interview recorded in 2012 and my Royal Institution Friday Evening Discourse. I am basically a synthetic chemist, which means that I am interested in making stuff and studying its properties. I am currently working on electrodeposition of tin, graphitic carbonitrides, amino-borane hydrogen storage, and the filling of carbon nanotubes. You can check out my UCL webpage.
I spend a lot of time thinking about environmental issues and I sit on UCL’s Environmental Sustainability Steering group and have been pushing a number of projects to reduce UCL’s energy consumption and to promote the sharing of resources by using online chemicals and equipment inventories.
In my work, I am heavily involved in teaching chemistry to undergraduates and have been steadily expanding the use of e-learning and social media in support of teaching and student engagement. I have won two UCL Teaching Awards.
This blog will focus on chemistry that catches my eye, science communication, cycling, and issues related to energy policy, and climate change.