“In the end I thought that the practical aspect of a chemistry degree would be more interesting over a four-year course,” says James.
“My PhD project involved synthetic inorganic and organic chemistry, with a key emphasis on the design and characterisation of phosphorus compounds with unusual behaviour and their transition metal complexes. Some of my results were published over two papers in the RSC journal Dalton Transactions, and were followed by a review of my PhD subject area in the RSC annual book series Specialist Periodic Reports – Organometallic Chemistry. These were great experiences as I was able to receive useful feedback from the peer-reviewed publishing process the RSC has.”
Joining the RSC within the first few months of his undergraduate degree, James has had many opportunities to attend events and conferences in the UK and abroad. These experiences have benefited his career and as a postgraduate helped grow his network in the phosphorus chemistry community.
“I have always found RSC events to be very well organised. As a PhD student, I attended the biannual Dalton conference at the University of Warwick in 2014 and the ChemComm/Dalton Transactions International Symposium at the University of Regensburg in 2013.
“As well as being an opportunity to learn new chemistry, they are great for networking and have allowed me to meet fellow scientists and learn about career opportunities within the chemistry community. At the Dalton conference, I met Dr Chris Russell from the University of Bristol and subsequently spent a week in his research laboratory. The experience was excellent and formed the basis of my RSC researcher mobility grant application, which I used to go to Germany for six weeks.”
Without RSC funding, I don’t think I’d have had the same opportunities for professional development in my career so far. The researcher mobility grant and EnterprisePlus training voucher enabled me to increase my knowledge of chemistry and consequently made me a better scientist.
Granted in 2014, James’ researcher mobility grant allowed him to work in the group of Professor Evamarie Hey-Hawkins at the University of Leipzig. “It was a fantastic opportunity and it allowed me to develop my skills in the laboratory, in addition to being a very educational cultural experience. It was great to work in a different research environment and really helped with my professional development as a scientist.”
After finishing his PhD, James joined High Force Research Ltd – a company he already had links with as they were providing financial support to another student in his research group. Since then, he has developed into an experienced and driven senior team member, spending most of his time in the laboratory exploring multistep synthetic organic chemistry projects.
“I generally work on contract research projects, which means I have experienced a wide range of chemistry across a multitude of sectors and academia, such as pharmaceuticals, imaging agents and polymers. As a team leader, I support less experienced colleagues in their roles and have represented the business at regional networking events. I regularly attend our region's RSC Organic Division meeting and find it a great opportunity to see what exciting new chemistry is being done in the North East.
“My position is also customer focused, so I frequently interact with clients regarding project updates and the results of the work undertaken. It is a very interesting job and I have been able to learn a lot of new practical skills thanks to the diversity of the projects.”
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Recently, James was awarded an EnterprisePlus training voucher from the RSC, which partially funded a Scientific Update training course in Amsterdam.
“The experience has been very useful in my role at High Force Research. It really increased my knowledge of chemical development and scale-up, and I have been able to implement parts of the course into my projects. I have also been able to pass on technical information to my colleagues through in-house training and seminars.
With his belief that professional development is a highly important part of personal development and his impact in the chemical community, James has also taken up other knowledge-enhancing opportunities that the RSC have to offer. One of these resulted in him achieving Chartered Chemist (CChem) status through the RSC’s new scheme launched in 2020.
I was really well supported throughout the CChem process. I’m happy that I was able to contribute to the updating of the scheme and participate in a webinar to help promote the relaunch. Before I joined the pilot scheme, I had a consultation with Dr Jonelle Harvey about what was needed to achieve CChem status. It gave me the confidence that it was the right qualification for me and gave me time to collect evidence and prepare a portfolio.
“A few months later, when I started on the CChem pilot scheme, I was actually assigned Jonelle as a mentor. She guided me towards appropriate evidence for each attribute and all the advice I received was very useful. I was pleased to see that the new attributes also covered sustainability and ethical practice, which I think will engage a younger audience. Achieving CChem status is not just about doing good science or your day-to-day job – it covers other aspects of your character, such as your contribution to the scientific community and wider society as well.
“I think that my CChem will help me throughout my career, especially when it comes to standing out in a competitive job market where many people are likely to have similar university qualifications. It is also proof that you are willing to put time and effort into your professional development, which I think will be looked upon favourably.”