The University of Southampton
Chemistry

Jamie Thompson BSc Chemistry, 2016

Graduate

Jamie Thompson's Photo

From the nanoscale all the way though to an intergalactic scale, chemistry gives you the tools to both observe the universe and play with it. I chose Southampton because of the family feeling within the departments and the outstanding research resources were a big incentive. As a first year chemist, some of the labs felt like a scene from a science fiction movie!

At the end of my third year, I secured the opportunity to work with NASA at their Ames Research Centre located in Silicon Valley, California. Southampton was extremely supportive with helping me make this placement a reality.

I was able to get into PhD research labs in my first year and help with real research. I feel like I learned the most valuable skills and knowledge during this time. During my first two years, I spent a lot of my spare time in the electrochemistry department. I learned the basics of using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), played with advanced potentiostats amongst other electrochemical equipment.

Lab work
Lab work

My dissertation was based on Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS); a technique that was actually discovered at Southampton. Professor Phil Bartlett mentored and I felt I was given the tools and freedom to explore the research and run a range of exciting experiments on fantastic equipment. The research environment was stimulating and drove me to work extremely hard to collect results. After writing my dissertation I was privileged to be added as an author on a paper.

 

Jamie at Nasa
Jamie at Nasa

I spent a year working in Advanced Space Science and Technology on one of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Our project was based on developing a device that uses photoelectrocatalysis to convert CO2 into O2 and hydrocarbons using only solar radiation (light). During my time at NASA, I was exposed to fantastic research facilities, both on site and at collaborator locations including Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. My work on the project lead to me being able to speak at the Materials Research Society (MRS) 2015 Fall meeting as well as publishing my research in MRS Advances. As the project moved into its second phase I was made a co-investigator on the project which has allowed me to continue my work there.

I learned a huge amount from simply being located in silicon valley, I was able to move into a huge co-op house full of techies, scientists and engineers, working at Google X, Apple, NASA and some even running their own start-ups. I learned vast amounts from their knowledge and have been able to participate in fun projects from building an R&D lab in our garage to hosting large tech talks in our living room.

 

At work
At work
Jamie at his placement
Jamie at his placement
Learning on the job
Learning on the job

I am currently working at PARC on developing catalytic inks for CO2 conversion as well as a printable device that can act as a solar reactor for our catalyst. I am hoping to begin a PhD in October split between the UK and NASA to allow me to take a more academic approach to the photoelectrocatalysis, whilst still remaining involved in the engineering of a pretty cool device.

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