What is your current role?
Engineering Doctorate (EngD) student at the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) at Swansea University and jointly a Research Engineer at Diamond Light Source Ltd.
What A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) did you do?
Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Design and Technology
Why you chose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)?
Having studied industrial processes in my Chemical Engineering degree, I learnt that materials play a huge role in science and engineering on every scale; from the thick steel walls that form 100 000 L fermenters down to nanoscopic clusters of gold atoms active for catalysis. For me, studying engineering and entering the field of materials research is the result of an ever-present and growing fascination of how things work and the hope that, in my lifetime, I can contribute to making the world a nicer, more efficient and sustainable place to live.
I felt a career in MSE was more important than ever as we try to do this by creating better batteries, sustainable buildings, and more recyclable products – to name just a few examples!
What made you chose a career in MSE?
I was very unsure on what my next steps would be after finishing my undergraduate and I felt unmotivated and not ready to begin a job in industry. Luckily, I came across the amazing EngD programme that M2A offer, and I could picture myself as a research engineer being able to further my studies while working in an industrial environment. The fact that the project was MSE based was also a major choosing factor as I have always been interested in materials, how they work, and how they are used in and impact the world around me.
What is your research about?
My research is about trying to design and make a new and more efficient catalysts for a chemical reactions (e.g. for hydrogen production or pharmaceuticals).
Using the brand-new magnetron cluster source, based at the Diamond synchrotron, I will investigate the catalytic properties of clusters (small groups of atoms) made from a
variety of different materials. I will do this by building the catalysts from the atoms up!
What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?
I got to travel to and live in Freiburg (Germany) for the first two months of my doctorate, all during a global pandemic!
While there I helped assemble the equipment (a magnetron cluster source) that I will be running and using at Diamond for my research project. I also got to drive on the Autobahn, eat and drink lots of German food and beer, and see some amazing sights in the Black Forest in my free time.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Currently, I would like to pursue a career in industry after I finish my doctorate, in a material focused or engineering orientated position.
However, I am also interested in getting into business, management, or finance and would love to become an entrepreneur.
I am not ruling out further research and would be open to the right postdoctoral role and some more years in academia. As you can see, I am still very unsure on what I want to do in the future, but I understand that it is ok to not know what you want to do at any stage of life! The most important thing is that I enjoy doing what I am doing at any time, and I understand that I will face challenges and difficulties in anything I do.
What is your favourite material (and why)?
My favourite material has to be gold.
Not just that it expensive and shiny and looks good in a ring but because it has some really cool properties on the atomic level that mean it can be used as a catalyst in several chemical reactions! It shows how something can seem so ordinary and unreactive on the visible surface but when we look deeper and in more detail we can discover things about materials that surprise us still!
What advice would you give your 16-year old self?
I would advise myself not to worry too much about the future and what it might bring.
It is important to have a rough of the things you might like to do, the best education and career will come from pursuing what you enjoy doing the most. The world is a constantly changing place and there will always be the opportunity to use your unique set of skills to help solve some of the biggest problems and challenges that we face.
One final thing, I would also say – attend a materials science outreach event!
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/henryhoddinott