Personal Statement – PhD

PhD position on Photocatalysis supported by non-innocent ligands

I have high ambitions to make it into the academic field and to be a leader in chemistry research. As a female scientist I feel strongly about promoting women in STEM. This is shown by my campaigning to be an NUS delegate for the NUS Women’s and National conferences 2017 where I will aim to ensure STEM women have a voice. As a student I have noticed that academia in chemistry is a male-dominated environment and changing these statistics is something that I am passionate about.
What particularly inclines me to Chemistry at the University of York is its great emphasis on promoting equality and diversity in the department. Being the first academic department in the UK to receive the Athena SWAN Gold award and with Chemistry’s Equality and Diversity Group, the steps taken to ensure fairness in the school means a lot to me.
I believe I have what it takes to take on the challenges that come with research. Currently working on my Masters project, I am looking at The Synthesis and Evaluation of Pyrene Functionalised Organometallics as Catalysts. My project is particularly concerned with the use of ruthenium metal and tethering a pyrene-derivatised moiety, synthesised myself, onto the dichloro(p-cymene)ruthenium(II) dimer precursor, in order to create a novel compound with great catalytic potential. The pyrene would play a key role in allowing for adsorption onto a graphitic surface via non-covalent interactions, resulting in enhanced catalytic activity of the ruthenium centre. My project has a wider aim of achieving a homogeneous catalyst with the advantages of a heterogeneous catalyst.
What I really enjoy about my Masters project, is its interdisciplinary aspects. Being an ‘all-rounder’ student with each discipline of chemistry being particularly strong, this is something that is a ‘win-win’ for me. The opportunity to synthesise ligands in an organic manner, coordinate them onto a metal centre in an inorganic manner and then analyse the catalytic activity by means of physical chemistry, aligns very well with my interests and your field of work.

The project on photoredox catalysis and exploring photophysical properties is the perfect crossover research for where inorganic meets physical chemistry; two fields I really enjoy. Furthermore, having studied about spectroelectrochemistry, probing metal ions from UV/vis and EPR, the opportunity to put theory into practice through training provided in this PhD will be an exciting opportunity for me.

A key lesson that my Masters work has taught me so far, is that patience is a virtue and even if reactions don’t work or I don’t get results as desired, that in itself is results. My project has challenged me in the sense that it’s a relatively new area of chemistry to both myself and the research group I work with and as with all new research, a lot of it has been very open-ended.
On work experience at Croda Ltd. I worked as an analytical chemist validating a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) method. The placement required quick learning of HPLC, adapting to the professional environment and becoming a part of the Croda team. This experience has demonstrated my high capabilities of working in the chemical industry as well as in research labs.
As an active student at university, I’m passionate about bringing change to better the student experience. I feel that I have made a significant contribution to the School of Chemistry at Leeds and even our university on a wider scale. I feel strongly about encouraging students to speak their voice and about representing the underrepresented; this is demonstrated by my volunteering to be a Chemistry Course Representative, a Library Representative and now I’m the School Representative for the School of Chemistry. In these roles, I have helped shape the department by putting forward ideas to forums and liaising with academics to bring about change.
As a 3rd year Course Representative I proposed extended hours in our chemistry computer cluster which has now been put in place and as a Library Representative I established a prayer facility in our newly built library, an achievement that I am particularly proud of. Not only that, but my success has extended out in being the School Representative for Chemistry, where I have introduced the Dean’s List for Outstanding Academic Achievement and Course Representative hoodies for the 30 Course Reps that I now lead. In addition, I took an idea to out Better Union forum which was introducing women’s-only gym sessions at our on-campus gym, to my content the idea passed and now I’m working with the Union and gym staff to implement it!
My high capabilities are demonstrated by my exceptional exam marks reflecting my ability to problem solve under pressure. In my 3rd year, I achieved the highest mark in the modules Chemical Bonding and Reactivity and Solid State and Materials Chemistry. As School Representative, I constantly look to improve the Leeds chemistry student experience, by changing the way student-staff forums are run and developing new student-led committees.
Whether it’s achieving a new running Personal Best or getting the highest mark in an exam, my determination, ambitious character and drive to accomplish something ensures I put all efforts into everything I do.
All in all, I have demonstrated exceptional academic potential, high capabilities of research, significant contribution outside of studying and a passion to make it in the world of chemistry research.
I hope you will consider me for this PhD opportunity, I would be happy to answer any questions or provide any further information if needed. Thank you for taking the time out to consider my application. I look forward to hearing from you.