yay! yay! yay!
St. Peter School until I was 14. Lorain Catholic High School until I was 18 (graduated 1991). Undergrad in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame (graduated 1995). PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota (2000).
BSc and PhD
I’ve had soooo many crappy jobs until I got my degree. Two examples: shredding medical records, collecting golf balls and cleaning toilets at a theme park.
Senior lecturer in biomaterials
University of Manchester
Favourite thing to do in my job Food chemistry: I love experimenting in the kitchen. I still learn about flavours, colours and textures in food and try out new ideas at home.
I’m an American who came to Britian for only a year … 15 years ago.
I was born in Chicago and raised and educated in the midwestern USA. After I finished my PhD in the US, I got offered a job for a year in Oxford. It sounded cool, so I went. Well, one year turned into three, then six, and now it’s over 15.
I live in south Manchester with my partner, Rachel, who is a biochemist. I don’t have a pet yet, but I saw a degu the other day and now I want one.
I work with proteins so we can make energy and chemicals in a greener way.
I work at the University of Manchester in the School of Materials. I run a research group of about 6–10 people, depending on the time of the year. We meet pretty regularly so they can tell me how their experiments are going and we can think of what to do next.
I teach university students, too. I try to make lectures more interesting by letting people use their phones and having demonstrations that make fire.
I have to spend a lot of time writing. We share our exciting scientific results by writing papers about them, then having them examined by other experts to make sure they agree with our ideas and how we tested them. This takes a lot of time, but it’s really important.
My Typical Day
Meeting with my group, teaching and a lot of writing
Every day is different for me. That’s part of what I enjoy. There’s travel, teaching, meeting, writing, planning experiments, discussing ideas, and drinking a lot of tea.
What I'd do with the money
Invest it into augmented reality science demos
We have this guy at Manchester named Anthony and he showed me an amazing mobile app. You hold your phone in front of a picture and it displays a video or 3D virtual object that you can manipulate. So, say you’re looking a picture of a cell: it might have little arrows that explain what the parts are, or have a video of someone talking about why it’s interesting. I’ll try to get a picture for my profile.
It’s going to cost more than the prize money, but I think the crowd-funding route will make this possible.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
caffeinated, creative, kooky
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I created some really pretty materials that looked like opals. (Check out pictures in work photos.)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I had a chemistry set that didn’t have the dangerous stuff removed.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, I was suspended in high school for telling off some staff.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I’ve been into Regina Spektor lately.
What's your favourite food?
Burritos. Man, I miss Mexican food.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I love travelling to northern areas. My picture is from Iceland, which was great. That’s where my photo is from.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. To have more money for research. 2. To be a faster writer. 3. To create a second me to have some time off. I’m not sure if the last one will be computer based or a clone.
Tell us a joke.
What’s the difference between USA and USB? One connects to all of your devices and accesses the data, the other is a hardware standard.
So, we work with some protein that comes from mushrooms like the ones in the picture on the left. We mash up the fungus and separate out the brown stuff from the beautiful blue material. The blue colour comes from the copper in it.
My office looks like a tip. I’m pretty sure there’s a sandwich under one of those stacks of papers. The lab is in much better shape, though. We do some of our work on proteins using the equipment in the picture on the right.
The pictures above show some artificial opals I made in the lab. The one on the left shows what they look like under a light microscope. The one on the left shows how they look under an electron microscope. The honeycomb of holes makes them have the shiny colours.