Most commercial polymers (eg. plastics) are made from petroleum by-products, but due to the potential limited availability of such starting materials, methods that use renewable starting materials that are natural, biocompatible and abundant are desirable. An exciting class of natural polymers are polysaccharides (long sugar chains) which include cellulose--the most abundant natural polymer. Cellulose is extracted from cotton and soft wood pulp by treatment with acid, and exhibits interesting material properties, that arise from the arrangement of the polymer chains in the solid form. These interesting properties could help develop stimuli-responsive materials for use in sensing, electronic and optics applications. During my post-doctoral fellowship I aim to develop a novel cellulose based material that is elastomeric and contains a second component which will enable the material to be strengthened after preparation. This new class of materials could have applications in a range of uses from real-time blood pressure sensors to fracture sensors in buildings.
Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?
I wanted to use my postdoctoral fellowship to explore a new country while also continuing to develop as a researcher. Despite initially considering other institutions, it became clear early on that UBC and Vancouver were the ideal choices from both a professional and personal perspective. UBC is internationally recognised as a centre of research excellence and Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
What specifically attracted you to your research group?
For my postdoctoral position, I wanted to diversify my materials chemistry knowledge as well as work on an application driven project, which is something I had not yet done in my research career. To achieve this, I thought the MacLachlan group with their globally known research with nanomaterials was a good fit. Furthermore, the work in the MacLachlan group is highly interdisciplinary which is one of the aspects of my PhD that I enjoyed the most.
What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?
Select a research group that enables you to explore a new area of your discipline while enabling you to apply the knowledge obtained during your PhD to new problems. Furthermore, make sure you choose an institution and city that you will enjoy working and living in as it makes your postdoctoral position even more rewarding.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?
It is fun conducting research on your own but I find it much more rewarding doing it as part of a team. Therefore, the most enjoyable aspect of my postdoctoral fellowship is interacting with undergraduate and postgraduate students and exploring new areas of chemistry with them. In addition, having the opportunity to explore British Columbia in my spare time has also been a huge highlight.
What does receiving this award mean for your career?
The Banting fellowship is for two years, so provides a level of financial stability and security, which means I can focus on my research without having to worry about obtaining more research funding. Also, as it is an internationally recognised award, hopefully it will be help me achieve the next step in my career, whatever that may be.