EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training
in Molecular-Scale Engineering
a Centre for Nanotechnology
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Paul Taylor

I have finished a Chemistry MChem four-year course at the University of Sheffield in 2012. My masters’ research project focused on medicinal chemistry, synthesizing and evaluating novel Indole analogues as anti-prion agents. I have a keen interest in medicine, nanotechnology, and smart materials. I would like to carry out research focusing on these areas of research developing new methods and materials for the benefit of medicine.

Previous lab experience
I have a history of experience in synthetic organic chemistry from my masters’ project. This includes characterization techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR); Infrared (IR); Ultraviolet-Visible light (UV-Vis) Spectroscopy; Mass Spectrometry; High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC); and Gas Chromatography (GC). In addition, I have experience in surface characterization techniques such as X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS).

Why I chose to study in the CDT in Molecular-Scale Engineering
One of the most appealing features of the course is the flexibility in PhD project choice. The students in my cohort were given over 30 PhD projects to choose from. Every project spanning into Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, and Physics, gives the students the opportunity to learn new skills in different disciplines. Before committing to your PhD project, the course offers you rotations in the projects to give you a “feel” of the research.

Current research
My current project rotation is with Dr Simon Jones of the Chemistry Department, and Dr Nigel Hoggard of the Department of Medicine at the University of Sheffield. The project involves developing the functionalisation of Dextran coated Magnetite nanoparticles with bisphosphonate moieties with high binding affinity for bone. The overall goal of the research is to develop a new MRI contrast agent for bone as a diagnostic tool for identifying early signs of osteoporosis.

Advantages of an integrated PhD over a conventional PhD
The CDT includes taught modules to further your knowledge before starting your PhD. I believe this proves to be an advantage over a standard PhD project as you are better prepared and familiarized with new topics. I feel from taking an interdisciplinary course, I will learn and acquire new skills and scientific approaches to problems. This will prove useful in the long term as my range of skills is broadened, my employability will increase. In addition, learning new skills and disciplines makes you appreciate science and technology.

The most enjoyable aspects
The residential week was a memorable one. At the start of the week, I was anxious about starting a PhD programme. As the week progressed, I realized all the other students were in the same boat as I. As the cohort began to settle in, we had an amazing excursion to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as well as staying at a lovely Hotel with great food and wine. One of the team bonding exercises involved Lego, you cannot say no to Lego!

The most challenging aspects
The amount of work during the first few months was demanding, but it was similar to the workload as my final year of my masters’. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the course, there are some topics, which are out of my depths from my Chemistry degree. I found quickly adapting to learn new material slightly challenging.

My future career
After taking an interdisciplinary course, I would like to become an all-rounded researcher and would like to take research positions that also have interdisciplinary features a Post doctorate or in Industry.

What would you say to other students interested in joining the CDT?
If you want to broaden your skills and knowledge reaching out of your ‘comfort zone’ taking on new and exciting challenges. This is the course for you.

Activities I participate in outside of the CDT
I am a keen fan of football, playing regularly every week for a couple of teams in the University Intra Mural leagues. I also enjoy kayaking and swimming. I am a bit of a bookworm and enjoy a good read.