During the first six months of my PhD in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces Centre of Doctoral Training (SOFI CDT), I and 20 other PhD students (Cohort 5 of SOFI) had the opportunity to act as “consultants” as part of our training of understanding soft matter science within an industrial and multidisciplinary context. This business awareness training was carried out at Durham, Leeds, and Edinburgh Universities in a team-based approach, with expertise ranging from chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and food science. During this training period, we consulted for companies such as Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, AkzoNobel, Merck, Lucite, Schlumberger, and Epigem. We also worked on team-building skills, expertly instructed by Piero. My favourite part was the wood puzzle games and white water rafting trip. Over this 6-month period, I got to experience what multidisciplinary science really is and I got to bond with 20 people that helped my transition in moving to the UK, which I really appreciated. We are all now based permanently at either Durham, Leeds or Edinburgh, which also gives me reasons to travel across the UK.
I chose, and officially joined the McGonigal Group at Durham University in April 2019 for my PhD. My research focuses on the design of artificial molecular devices that interface with the molecular machinery in plant membranes. This multi-interdisciplinary project has allowed me to gain new skills and expertise in supramolecular chemistry, a field that is quite exciting. The access to world-class facilities has opened my eyes to what cutting edge really looks like. Aside from work, our group is very friendly and we do a lot of group activities such as go-karting (I came in 4th place!), ‘white elephant’ gift-giving at Christmas, group meals, pub trips, and recent air hockey tournaments. Our group’s close environment has been one of the key factors of helping me get through these difficult times with the COVID pandemic, especially with me being away from home.
I have also had the privilege to be a part of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI) as PhD Fellow. The DEI takes an interdisciplinary approach to the broad questions surrounding the supply and demand of energy in a developing World. The DEI supports and produces cutting-edge energy research which draws on the expertise of world-leading researchers across Durham University’s departments in Science, Social Science, and Humanities. I contribute to developing and promoting these links through my research activities and Science outreach. I have enjoyed the science outreach we have done so far, especially the Celebrate Science Festival last year. This is a huge, free, science outreach festival aimed at children and is held on Palace Green every October, where there is a wide range of science-themed activities ran by students. I helped run workshops and activities concerning “Solving the World’s Greatest Challenges”. I am excited to be able to learn from and contribute to this important institute and its endeavours.
Recently, I have been awarded an SCI scholarship, which was announced today (July 1, 2020). SCI is an inclusive, inter-disciplinary forum connecting scientists and business people to advance the commercial application of chemistry and related sciences for public benefit. For me, I have a strong interest in the intersection of science and business which is SCI’s focus. The funding and support offered by my SCI Scholarship will provide a valuable resource to help me pursue my studies and my growth as a professional.
My time at Durham University has been a real eye-opening experience and I am excited to continue my journey here!
Learn more about the SCI Scholarship Burhan has been awarded here.
Learn more about research degrees at Durham here.