It was these experiences that made me realise I wanted to live in a place full of other people like me, where I could blend into the background and my skin colour wasn't the only thing people saw. My love for learning, particularly chemistry, became that ticket for me. I had some fantastic teachers along the way - my favourite chemistry teacher was my A-Level teacher, who wore a pink lab coat with frills. She was awesome, and I remember thinking ‘wow, I want to be just like her!’
It got me thinking about chemistry outside the classroom, in our bodies, in cosmetics, in the air. I didn't think about any other subjects in the same way, so I knew chemistry was the one for me! I chose the biggest, most diverse city in the UK to study my MSci at King's College London. I graduated with the highest grade in my year - still my biggest academic achievement to date - and headed off to Imperial College London to complete a PhD as part of the ReaCt Centre for Doctoral Training.
The most influential and supportive person in my life has always been my mum. Every achievement I have made is also her achievement, we have done it all together and I wouldn't have made it without her.
Xin: I was born and raised in Shanghai, China, where I attended schools that followed the traditional Chinese curriculum. Eight years ago, I moved to the United States for my undergraduate study.
Working towards a PhD in Chemistry was not something I had planned, but rather a happy coincidence. Since I was young, I have been interested in learning about materials science. My dad used to work for 3M, and he taught me English by reading the company's Chinese-English bilingual product catalogue. I was fascinated by all kinds of amazing materials and wanted to contribute to their future development.
During my undergraduate studies, I realised that materials science is an interdisciplinary subject that is closely related to both chemistry and physics, which led me to choose Applied Physics as my major. I graduated from Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and am now working towards my PhD under the supervision of Dr Julia Payne at the University of St Andrews.
Jaime: I am originally from Madrid, Spain. My journey in chemistry began at Hastings School in Madrid, where I had the chance to explore the beauty of science through the vast amount of practical work in the curriculum.
Initially, I wanted to study aerospace engineering. After completing a course on rockets from Duke University, I thought my interest was related to the physics behind the structure of rockets. But I soon realised what truly impressed me was how the combination of reactive substances, at the appropriate pressure and temperature, can give the required energy to elevate such a massive structure. From that point onwards, I was fascinated by the world of chemistry.
One person who inspired me and helped me to understand chemistry was my A-level chemistry teacher, Hal Pattenden. He gave me the support I needed to pursue a career in chemistry. I can definitely say I would not be where I am right now if it had not been for him.