Coming to the end of a Graphene PhD
Research 12th January 2017
Nearing the end of his PhD, Graphene NOWNANO student, Leon Newman talks about his experience in the doctoral training programme.
Choosing to undertake a PhD at The University of Manchester’s Graphene NOWNANO Centre for Doctoral Training Programme (CDT) was one of the most fruitful choices of my career to date. Coming from a background in Pharmacy and Nanomedicine, I was already exposed to a multidisciplinary education focused around chemistry and biology. The Graphene NOWNANO CDT seemed like a natural progression, being a multidisciplinary scientific platform.
The first six months of the CDT encompassed a taught intensive and rigorous training in the theoretical aspects of nanotechnology, as well as a choice of training in the use of different practical requisites for successful research. The best part of this portion was a twelve week lab placement, where I participated in the research of a lab involved in nanomaterials characterisation. During this project, we analysed nanoscale materials, including graphene, in order to understand their properties. Another highlight was the enterprise and entrepreneurship course, which exposed me to an often hidden realm of scientific education and indicated how I could transform my research into a tangible business venture. We were also taken on visits to scientific companies, such as Astra Zeneca, which I found very useful in terms of building connections with potential employers.
Following the successful completion of this initial taught course, I decided to pursue my interest in medical technology development and chose a PhD research project under the supervision of Prof Kostas Kostarelos. As part of this project, I contribute to the ever growing knowledge to help determine if ‘the wonder material’ graphene can be successfully applied in the medical field. My work is based around understanding whether graphene based materials have the potential to be safely removed by the body, which would be paramount for their application as part of a nanomedicine that could be potentially administered to a patient.
I am coming to the completion of this PhD project, with the last few experiments remaining. Throughout my experience, working in the lab has always been exciting and interesting, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of time when working to obtain results and discover something new. Team work is always encouraged, so I have also had the time to build friendships with interesting and inspiring people, both students as well as academics. In addition, I got the opportunity to share and discuss the latest developments in graphene science with the public as part of scientific outreach, which was a rewarding experience.
A major highlight of my PhD was when I presented parts of my research and was awarded first prize in the Young Investigators Colloquium at the 8th International Nanotoxicology Congress 2016 in Boston, USA. This was a huge achievement, both scientifically and personally. I was thrilled that I was given the opportunity to travel to another continent to present my work as part of my PhD. Moreover during my time abroad, I had the opportunity to meet researchers from all over the world and talk about my research and realise that the work I do in my PhD is appreciated by the scientific community worldwide.
This has given me a lot of confidence, but also has emphasised how much the PhD programme has helped me to evolve. Aside from my main research, I have also had the chance to work with other researchers from other disciplines, where we approach each other’s research issues, helping to further enrich the value of our work.