Dipl.-Chem., Dr. rer. nat., CChem, MRSC
Polymer Chemistry and Chemical Education
Over a number of years, my research has been in synthetic Polymer Chemistry, often at the borderline to Organic Chemistry. The study of polymer properties requires a range of characterisation techniques such as dynamic thermal mechanical analysis and NMR spectroscopy. My activities in Chemical Education has ranged from the development of teaching videos to redesigning lab courses.
1. Polymer Synthesis
Polymers are highly versatile materials and can be designed to do special jobs. My interest in the past has included electroluminescent polymers that emit light when an electric current passes through them; shape-memory polymers that remember their original shape and can return to it after having been deformed; and polymers that are able to bind to proteins with high selectivity using the same molecular recognition processes that protein receptors use. More recently and in collaboration with Dr V. Arrighi, we have studied polymer–filler nanocomposites where the polymer is grafted from the surface of nanoparticles using techniques such as atom-transfer radical polymerisations (ATRP). The covalent attachment of polymer chains to silica nanoparticles is particularly effective in improving the thermal and dynamic mechanical properties of the composite at elevated temperatures.
The way students learn at university has changed over the last decades. The textbook – although not (yet) redundant – has been supplemented by new educational tools such as online learning material, interactive websites, videos and apps, to name just a few examples. While there is already a lot out there on the internet, it is not so easy to find really useful tools and, in many cases, they still require modification to fit a lecture course. I am interested in developing new e-learning ideas in the areas of Polymer Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Spectroscopic Analysis that supplement both lecture courses and laboratory classes.
3. Enhancing the Lab Experience
The laboratory is an important element in the training of a Chemistry undergraduate student. While 30 years ago undergraduate students spent 25 hours a week in the teaching lab, this is no longer the case and laboratory classes need to be adapted to provide the necessary training. Enhancing the lab experience can take the form of new experiments, additional training opportunities (often online), and transferrable skills (designing posters).