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Project Leader In Enhanced Experimentation

Stuart McDonald

My job is about refining processes with new methods, and scouting for new technologies.

00:04 My name is Stuart McDonald, I’ve been working here in Amsterdam for Shell now for two years,

00:11 I grew up in Libya, North Africa, moving back to the UK for my studies.

00:16 My background is in Chemistry and I did my undergraduate in chemistry at Loughborough University,

00:22 I did a placement year in AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company,

00:26 then I did my PhD for Frank Marken at Bath University in Physical Chemistry.

00:32 That was over a three-year period and now I find myself here in Amsterdam working for Shell.

00:39 My job title in Shell is ‘Project Leader of Enhanced Experimentation’ which is quite a broad term,

00:47 to have on a card, but essentially it means doing, allowing R and D,

00:53 research and development, to happen faster,

00:57 to allowing more R and D processes,

01:01 so, it uses a combined set of tools, so from robotics and automation,

01:07 high throughput experimentation, fast analytical methods,

01:14 computer modelling and data basing.

01:17 But the overall theme is to use these tools to allow researchers to

01:23 get useful results faster and the overall theme is allowing R and D to hit the market quicker

01:29 to allow people’s bright ideas to have an impact on the business faster.

01:35 Part of doing things faster is doing things in parallel,

01:41 to get more results, you need to build more reactors.

01:46 It’s much easier to build one hundred of these in comparison.

01:50 So one part of the job is looking at miniaturisation, how do you take larger-scale processes

01:56 and essentially the large-scale process of this is a chemical refinery.

02:00 So you’ve taken it down to this level, can you take it down still further

02:05 and have the same process occurring at a small scale.

02:10 Build many of them and therefore do many more tests and get more data for your process

02:16 and eventually what that means is your catalyst, or your chemical process will be developed faster.

02:22 It’s working with chemists, it’s working with engineers,

02:26 it’s working with geologists, electrical engineers, analytical chemists

02:33 and in a wide range of areas within Shell,

02:37 so at the moment there’s currently running about fifteen projects,

02:42 in fuels, in lubricants, in our oil sands operations,

02:48 in our geology operations, our exploration.

02:51 It also involves going to look at opportunities outside Shell,

02:55 so looking at companies, for example specialists in robotics and automation,

03:02 outside Shell, so visiting companies, seeing what they can do and bringing their technology inside Shell for our benefit.

03:09 So it’s kind of like technology-scouting and seeing if those concepts can work in the energy industry.

03:16 There have been projects in India, there have been projects in Canada,

03:21 in Houston in North America, in the UK, in Germany,

03:26 and also the companies that I work with are from different parts of the world as well.

03:31 I get exposure to a lot of different areas of technology in a lots of parts of the world,

03:36 it’s a real interesting, fascinating job because

03:40 you can be at 9 o’clock in the morning on the ‘phone with a computational chemist in India,

03:46 and then in the evening you’re on the ‘phone with a geologist in Houston.

03:50 So literally, Friday afternoon I’m sitting in a chemistry lab in Bath,

03:56 finishing off my PhD and then on Monday I’m sitting here in Amsterdam,

04:03 with the day-to-day running of Enhanced Experimentation

04:05 throughout Shell and it was just fantastic.  


“The overall theme is allowing our research and development to hit the market quicker, to allow people's bright ideas to have an impact on the business.”

How did I get started?

I did my undergraduate in chemistry at Loughborough University, along with a placement year at AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company. I did my PhD at Bath University in physical chemistry before I found myself working for Shell.

Career progression

I've been able to work on my PhD at the same time as working for Shell. This has let me gain academically whilst also gaining valuable project management experience.

Skills used

Data Handling and Research, IT and Technology, Logical Thinker, Communication, Team Worker, Creativity, Management

“Friday afternoon I'm in a chemistry lab in Bath, finishing off my PhD and then on Monday I'm sitting here in Amsterdam with the day-to-day running of enhanced experiments.”