Growing up watching MythBusters, Maciej Walerowski believes his curiosity for science started from a young age.
“My dad always used to watch the Discovery Channel, so I ended up watching a lot of MythBusters, which got me thinking about how things work and why things happen,” says Maciej. “Going through school I found I could quite easily grasp science and enjoyed doing extra reading, especially when it came to quantum physics, which is originally what I thought I wanted to do at university. It wasn’t until I got to A-levels that I found I preferred chemistry because of the experiments, and so I applied to study for an MChem at Loughborough University.”
Beginning his studies in 2016, Maciej is on a five year MChem course, which included a year-long placement at Reckitt Benckiser in Hull between his second and third year. He is currently in his final year of studies, with a special interest in heterogeneous catalysis.
“As part of my final year MChem project, I am trying to understand the dynamic nature of a recently commercialised gold on carbon catalyst which is used for sustainable polyvinyl chloride production. What I am doing is analysing previously obtained X-ray absorption data to figure out how the active site changes, what intermediates are formed during reaction and what the reaction mechanism is.”
Maciej hopes to graduate in June 2021, where he will move on to do a PhD in Professor Robert Raja’s group at the University of Southampton, designing hybrid catalyst platforms for converting carbon dioxide into various chemicals. After that, Maciej would like to stay in catalysis, either applying his knowledge in industry to create catalysts that can have a positive environmental effect or exploring a more academic route if the right postdoc opportunity arises.
“My lecturers at Loughborough have been incredibly supportive right from the beginning of my first year and all the way through my undergraduate degree. Whenever I’ve needed any help, I’ve been able to approach them and have my questions answered. They really do go above and beyond for the students here.”
Maciej first heard about the RSC when he arrived at Loughborough University, but didn’t sign up for membership until after his placement, when he heard he could get an additional accreditation for the work he had been doing there.
“I joined the RSC after seeing an RSC stall at a placement presentation fair. I spoke to the representative who explained to me that as I’d done a placement, I would be able to apply for an additional accreditation, which was the Registered Scientist (RSci).
“After conducting some of my own research into what this was on the RSC website, I decided to apply. It was quite a thorough application process as you needed to show you had all the competencies required, as well as submitting a referee who could recommend you and say that you are a suitable person for the accreditation. After a few revisions to my application, and with help from the RSC on how to improve it, I became a registered scientist."
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After exploring what else membership could offer him, Maciej took full benefit of the student resources the RSC has on offer, including the use of the ChemSpider molecule database and the journals, in particular Catalysis Science & Technology.
“The ChemSpider database is my first point of call when I need to find out about a molecule’s properties. It’s basically a big database that contains chemical and physical information about various compounds or structures which have been produced in the past, so it is very practical for lab experiments or reports. The other thing I find it incredibly useful for is drawing chemical structures to find out exactly what the name of that chemical structure is, if it has been made, what properties it has and so on, so it’s great for chemical syntheses.
“Another resource that’s been beneficial is the high quality journals and articles as they contain a lot of pioneering research. Personally, the RSC journals are my favourite to read as the layout and way they are written is easy to understand and grasp. I regularly read Catalysis Science & Technology as it is relevant to my research area, and I have referenced a few of the articles in my literature reviews.”
Maciej believes that the RSC will continue to benefit him throughout his career.
“I’ve got the additional RSci accreditation, which will help me stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs and other opportunities. And then there’s also the amount of networking you can do and a lot of people you can meet through the RSC, both from LinkedIn and the dedicated forums, so I might be able to find out about jobs sooner or even just learn more about an area. I’ve also seen some conferences in Chemistry World that would directly link to my PhD, so I am thinking about attending those.
“Chemistry World is a great resource wherever you are in your career. It’s very varied in its content, and covers ground-breaking new research and innovative discoveries, which helps me to see where state of the art chemistry is and allows me to keep up to date with that.
“The more in-depth articles about select research are also useful in helping me to understand areas that I might not have been exposed to in my undergraduate degree, so I think it gives me a greater breadth of knowledge about chemistry. At the end, there’s opportunities for further skills training courses and a list of jobs on offer, so it really is a great all-round magazine.
“For a student, membership is very cheap, and even just getting Chemistry World alone would cost more than the £20 you pay. But then you also have the opportunities, extra resources, networking, additional accreditations, grants and funding and everything else that the RSC offers. I believe if you are serious about chemistry you should join the RSC because it shows your commitment and that you are interested in knowing more about what's going on in the field.”