30 May 2024. Brought to you by Taya Stankevych.

Amalia Chrysostomou

What is your current job / programme of study?

PhD student at the Institute of Chemical Biology, Imperial College London 

What A-Levels (or equivalent) did you do? 

Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science 

Why did you choose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)? 

I think I kind of found myself in Materials Engineering just by choosing projects that I found interesting. I am very bad at choosing a favourite between the areas of science that I like and Materials Engineering for me combines both Physics and Chemistry with the occasional Math making it exciting to learn and to apply in experiments. It also helps me understand a lot better the world around me and why it’s structured in the way that it is. 

What did you enjoy most about your MSE course? (If you didn’t do a MSE course which course did you do and what led to you MSE?) 

I did a Mechanical Engineering course for my undergraduate degree and what I enjoyed most about it was collaborative problem solving. Having mountains of exercises to solve and sitting all together with my friends trying to find solutions together to questions that engineers have to answer before building something. I then went on to do a MSc in Biomedical Engineering because I wanted to combine biology with mechanics and finally found my place in biomaterials research where I get to engineer different kinds of materials and investigate their mechanical and biological properties. 

What is your research about?  

Ever wondered why even though the cells we have in our body exist in a soft solid environment we tend to culture them in liquids? The first answer to that would probably be because it’s easier, but my research is about creating soft gels that can be used for cell culture so that cells can feel more “at home” while growing in a lab enabling us to get better results from our experiments with them. 

What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?  

While I was doing my MSc degree I designed and fabricated from scratch my own microfluidic device using photolithography techniques. I had to wear a cleanroom suit that basically only leaves room for your eyes to see and we couldn’t even take paper into the room to avoid any contamination. 

What do you see yourself doing in the future? 

I’m not yet sure what I want to do but I would definitely want to stay connected to science in whatever job I decide to do. I can see myself working in a hackspace and help people bring their ideas to life or as a technician in a lab. But I would also like a career involving science communication to get more people curious about things by using by own interests and passion for learning. 

What is your favourite material (and why)?  

I really like composite materials! I find it fascinating that by combining two or sometimes more materials with very different chemical and physical characteristics we can create something new with properties that might not be similar to the materials it’s made of.  

What advice would you give your 16 year old self? 

It’s okay to make mistakes and the decisions you take now are not the ones defining your future, you are. You can always change your direction if you feel like something is not for you, so just do more of what you like and choose according to what you’re passionate about! Also, you’ll be a great mechanical engineer, it is not a career only for boys. 

Hobbies: My favourite thing to do when I’m not in the lab is dancing! I’m part of a UK jazz dance collective and we have regular practices and shows which makes me feel part of a community.