Dr Ceri Hammond MRSC
Winner: 2021 Harrison-Meldola Memorial Prize
Imperial College London
For the development of traditional and sustainable catalytic processes using heterogeneous catalysts.
Celebrate Dr Ceri Hammond
Transitioning to a sustainable society means we have to replace non-renewable and polluting resources with cleaner, renewable alternatives. In the chemistry world, this means substituting fossil resources for renewable things such as agricultural waste or recycling surplus CO2 from the atmosphere.
However, to replace fossil resources, we need to develop ways to rearrange the chemical bonds in these renewable alternatives into the structures and forms we need in society. This is the general focus of Dr Hammond's research. In particular, the group is focused on developing catalysts; compounds that speed up chemical reactions, but which are not used up during the process. By developing new kinds of catalysts, the group is able to do new types of chemistry so that important industrial products can be made from renewable waste materials instead of non-renewable fossil resources.Read winner biography
Dr Ceri Hammond is a Royal Society University Research Fellow, based at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London (ICL). He studied for his undergraduate degree at the School of Chemistry at Cardiff University, and did doctoral research at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute under Professor Graham J Hutchings FRS. He subsequently spent periods at the Department of Chemical and Bio-Engineering at ETH Zürich (2011–2014, with Professor Ive Hermans), and later at the Department of Chemistry, Stanford University (2014–2015, with Professor Edward I Solomon). Ceri then established his independent lab in 2015 following the award of a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. He moved to Imperial College London in December 2019, after spending the first years of his URF at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute.
Ceri leads a multidisciplinary team at ICL that currently consists of two PDRAs, six PhDs and several UG students. His lab has a broad range of interests at the interface of chemistry and chemical engineering, and specialises in several aspects of catalysis and sustainable chemical technology.
What motivates you?
I have two main motivations. Firstly, I am very practical, and I enjoy the challenge of making and doing things. Secondly, I like to understand how and why molecules behave as they do, especially in the real reaction environment. I feel very privileged that I work in an environment and in a field that gives me the opportunity to combine both of these passions.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
Chemistry is a very diverse and wide-ranging topic, which gives opportunities to work in a huge number of specialist fields and work environments. In this sense, I think it is an excellent topic to study, as it caters for so many interests, and gives flexibility to change field or environment if/when interests change with time. As such, my advice to a young person would be to try as many opportunities as possible – every short-term project or extra module you explore will broaden your horizons, and increase your chances of finding the precise field of chemistry that’s right for you.
What has been a highlight for you (either personally or in your career)?
Undoubtedly the opportunities I have had to live and work in some amazing places around the world, which has benefited my professional development and my personal life in so many ways.
What has been a challenge for you (either personally or in your career)?
Along with many other early career researchers, I have found the lack of long-term stability over the early years of my career to be very challenging, since working on short-term contracts makes it very difficult to plan and execute challenging scientific research. In this regard, I am so grateful to the Royal Society for their support through the URF scheme, and the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London for my proleptic appointment at the college. This longer-term support has really transformed how I can approach my research ambitions.
What does good research culture look like/mean to you?
In my opinion, a good research environment is that which is driven by the desire to answer good scientific questions, and to solve important technical challenges. Good research culture is trying to solve such challenges without putting these goals above the well-being of researchers.
Why do you think teamwork is important in science?
I think the very best work is produced when a diverse team with different areas of expertise works together with a common goal, since the mutual exchange of ideas and the added creativity promotes progress exponentially. It’s also fun to work with different people and to continue to learn new things!