I am an undergraduate chemistry student at the University of Birmingham on the MSci course. I became aware of Zoe’s research during her lecture series in the first term of my second year, she told us how she was working with various different waste biomass sources. I instantly found this quite interesting, I feel that as chemists, we have a responsibility, to make a difference for the better.
I got in touch with Zoe, and asked if I would be able to do a summer project with her, we had a meeting and it was explained how one of Zoe’s interests is looking at ways to remove arsenic from groundwater using waste biomasses to produce filters. This was a project I felt able to get passionately behind. Not only does the project aim to reduce the ecological impact of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, but it also serves to really improve the quality of life for millions of people by providing them access to clean safe drinking water.
The project itself has had some really interesting and unusual aspects for example; I never expected to be doing chemistry with coffee grounds and vegetable peelings! Working on different species of trees has been quite interesting too, it took a while to be able to find a way to obtain a range of samples, finally though we were able to get a donation of 11 different species of tree from the National Memorial Arboretum to work on.
The best thing about working on a materials project though is how quickly we are able to get results back, and use these to optimise future experiments.