Favourite Thing: Discovering new compounds no one has ever made before.
University of Bristol 2009-2013, University of Toronto 2012 (placement year), University of Bath 2013-present
GCSEs, A Levels, MSci in Chemistry (University of Bristol, 2013), MRes in Sustainable Chemical Technologies (University of Bath, 2014)
Arts Theatre, Pentameters Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Stage Manager and Technician)
University of Bath
PhD student in Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, University of Bath, researching new solar cell materials.
Hi! I’m Oli, I’m twenty six and I’m in the last year of studying for my PhD. When I started University I didn’t know if I really wanted to be doing Chemistry, but I found that I really enjoy research because you get to work on solving problems, it’s very creative and no two days are exactly the same. When I’m not at work, I like to go sailing, play squash and rugby and read a lot of books. I grew up in Golders Green in London, I have a brother who is three years younger than me, he’s a police constable. I also have a sister who is thirteen years younger than me. Usually my brother and I play tricks on her, so now she doesn’t believe a single thing we say, unless we pinkie promise. You can’t break a pinkie promise, if you do you lose the pinkie.
Next Generation Solar Cell Technology
I want to work on things that will help other people. I think solar energy is a very good way to do this, because we receive a lot of energy from the sun and it’s not running out any time soon. Also, the ways we generate electricity at the moment cause a lot of pollution, harming millions of people, other species, and release carbon dioxide, which is causing rapid climate change. We are looking for materials that will convert sunlight into electricity very efficiently, while not being expensive to turn into solar cells. I experiment with ways to make new materials and also find out things about materials we already have by firing beams of X-rays or neutrons at the materials.
My Typical Day
Set up new lab experiments, analyse new materials, reading new research and writing.
Wake up (always a struggle), eat porridge, walk uphill and admire the view. Make tea or coffee, head into the lab and check on all the experiments and equipment. By this point the coffee should be at optimum drinking temperature. Read emails – I get to work with people from other universities and countries, so it’s important to stay in touch. I do a lot of chemical synthesis, this is changing matter from one form to another, which we do every day when we’re cooking. However, you wouldn’t want to eat anything I’m cooking up in the lab, as lots of the materials are toxic and they’re just to go into solar cells.
I use a lot of machines and computer analysis to discover things about the materials I make. We have X-ray machines in the department, these fire X-rays that diffract off of atoms like water waves spread out on a lake. This is one of the most important ways I find out what it is I’ve made in the lab.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Serious, silly, forgetful
Who is your favourite singer or band?
It changes a lot! Maybe Amadou & Mariam
What's your favourite food?
Avocado, no cheese, no avocado. It’s a tough question.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Turning a self-built go kart into a sailing kart on a very windy day.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I didn’t really know
Were you ever in trouble at school?
What was your favourite subject at school?
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
Tell us a joke.
Did you hear about the cheese factory that exploded? De brie was everywhere
Sometimes I set up reactions and they look a little alien
Once I’ve made materials I can take them to facilities to analyse. This place is the UK’s source of neutrons, it’s called ISIS.
Often it saves time to set up a lot of reactions at the same time
Some experiments can be very colourful
I take these solutions…
And turn them into solar cells!