Degree: MChem Chemistry with Study in Australasia
Graduate role: PhD student, University of Oxford
Gareth spent a year of his degree studying chemistry in Australia, and is now undertaking a PhD at the University of Oxford under the supervision of the world renowned Professor Peter Bruce. He is currently developing solid-state batteries for the next generation of electric cars, and Gareth has recently been involved in the establishment of The Faraday Institution, a national research institution aimed at making the UK a world leader in electric vehicle production.
"A shed scientist from the beginning, I knew I wanted to start my career in research as soon as I could. I began my MChem at Sheffield in 2011. The University was welcoming and the lecturers were very approachable. Sheffield fosters an environment where you can just knock on a door and start an interesting discussion about some obscure piece of chemistry that you think is interesting.
"I spent the third year on exchange at The University of Sydney. I would highly recommend this. Not only will you enjoy all the standard adventures of a year abroad but you are guaranteed an endless supply of sunshine for all the beach trips you will inevitably take when you are allegedly studying.
"The seasons in Australia are the opposite way around to the UK so you get a nice long summer holiday over the Christmas period. I used this time to travel and undertake a research project with Professor Thomas Maschmeyer. We were trying to develop new catalysts which could split water to make hydrogen for fuel using energy directly from sunlight. The project was really successful and I discovered a way to increase the rate of water splitting using a carbon nitride catalyst by more than 500%.
"Sadly, water splitting is still a long way off becoming efficient enough for the real world. However, this project really set me up for a career in research. For example, before returning to Sheffield I was able to work with Professor Mike Bowker at the Catalysis Hub in Harwell for three months. My projects over this year resulted in three published papers.
Back in Sheffield
"When I came back to Sheffield I wanted to continue my work on energy but I also wanted to deepen my theoretical knowledge and learn some basic computational chemistry so I proposed my own project. Sheffield was amazing because I was actually encouraged to play around with my own ideas rather than just stick with an outlined project.
"Under the supervision of Dr Natalia Martsinovich I used density functional theory to model novel 2D nanomaterials. I am really grateful for the amount of contact time I had with my supervisor. We enjoyed many interesting discussions, and I believe the friendly and open atmosphere I experienced during the research project is ubiquitous across the department.
"I also got the opportunity to present our results at conferences in Cambridge and Leeds. I enjoyed the fourth year project so much that I stayed on for a few extra months to do additional research before I started my PhD at Oxford."