I am writing this almost nine years to the day that I joined the UK Catalysis Hub as a Research Technician. It was the beginning of the first phase of the Hub and I had heard of the job through previous colleagues, Emma Gibson and Ian Silverwood – both of whom I met whilst during my PhD at Professor David Lennon’s lab in Glasgow and had both since moved onto PDRA positions at Harwell. My job at the time was to maintain the instruments in the Hub labs, along with helping on research projects. I first worked alongside one of the Hub PDRAs, Khaled Mohammed, on the design of SnAlPO catalysts.1 A project based on hydrogen production from the glycerol reforming reaction followed, under the supervision of Nikos Dimitratos and Peter Wells2,3 showing that the synthesis temperature of Pt/Al2O3 catalysts influenced the metal particle size and therefore the catalytic activity. This project was continued by one of the Hubs first PhD students turned PDRA, Scott Rogers. I enjoyed working on these projects immensely and a particular highlight was a trip to Florence for the Europacat Conference to present the work on the Glycerol reforming project.
After the first five years under UCL, the Hub was awarded a new grant for phase two, now through Cardiff University where my job role changed to Lab Manager. Having watched the Harwell group grow at least four times the size, not even including the visiting researchers, this role was very much required! Although for me it meant stepping back from ‘hands on’ science, I found the role challenging and very rewarding. I was able to implement new procedures into the labs that I hope, to this day improve the experience for all users and visitors working at the Hub. During this period, we have grown the scientific resources, installing new equipment such as a ChemBET, Ultrawave Digestor and a new FTIR/DRIFTS setup with high pressure capability. One of the most rewarding things about being in this role is watching so many of the students and researchers that I have met through the years progress onto bigger and better things, from fellowships to beamline scientists.
Throughout my time at Harwell I’ve also become heavily involved in the Hub EXAFS BAG on B18 at Diamond. Working on this introduced me to a huge number of students and researchers in the UK Catalysis field, working on a variety of projects. For me, this has been one of the successes of the Hub and has led to numerous collaborations and publications, including an article in Nature Catalysis that I co-authored.4
Another strength that the Hub has had over the years is the development of relationships with the facilities at Harwell, mainly the Central Laser Facility (CLF), Diamond and ISIS, along with a close relationship with the core team at the Research Complex at Harwell. It is these relationships that has helped me to further my career as I move into the position of Deuteration Facility Operations Manager at ISIS. Even though I am moving on, I hope to be able to collaborate with the Hub going forward and continue to be a part of the team, after all I’ll just be across the road!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank every person that I have worked with whilst being at Harwell, which is a lot! Special thanks to Professor Sir Richard Catlow for giving me the opportunity to work in the Hub, Cath for dragging me to my first football session, the two Emma’s for the support, Ines, the postdoc of the month, Monik for being the best lab Sheriff in town and to Josie for being a great boss. There are many more that I am grateful to for the collaborations and friendship over the years, but I only have limited space here! I hope to stay in touch with everyone and wish all the Hub members a bright and successful future.
1. Mohammed, K. M. H. et al. Design and control of Lewis acid sites in Sn-substituted microporous architectures. J Mater Chem A Mater 4, 5706–5712 (2016).
2. Subramanian, N. D., Callison, J., Catlow, C. R. A., Wells, P. P. & Dimitratos, N. Optimised hydrogen production by aqueous phase reforming of glycerol on Pt/Al2O3. Int J Hydrogen Energy 41, 18441–18450 (2016).
3. Callison, J. et al. Directed aqueous-phase reforming of glycerol through tailored platinum nanoparticles. Appl Catal B 238, 618–628 (2018).
4. Messinis, A. M. et al. The highly surprising behaviour of diphosphine ligands in iron-catalysed Negishi cross-coupling. Nat Catal2, 123–133 (2019).