Profile: Michael Nolan

Programme: PhD
Started: October 2014
Previous study: University of York, MChem with a year in industry (1st class)

Personal View

I arrived in Liverpool in October 2014 after completing my MChem year in industry (Momentive Specialty Chemicals BV, Rotterdam) just 1 month before. From my recent experience in industry I knew I was looking to approach my PhD in a professional and hard-working manner. I work in both the Chemistry department and the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy (SIRE) and it is needless to say that they have not disappointed; from my experience just 1-year into my PhD I find that all areas here provide a relaxed yet hardworking atmosphere which caters for everybody. I was never worried about moving to Liverpool as I knew it was an eventful and active city; I have always been a fan of independent coffee shops, cafes and bars and it seems that Liverpool has an endless supply of them all.

There are a lot of postgraduates in the department which means there is a friendly and integrative collegiate and lots of activities to keep you sane throughout your PhD. There is an interactive ChemSoc which fully integrates with the postgrads, there are bi-monthly departmental Connect events on a Friday evening and sports games are also regularly organised - I play in the weekly 5-a-side mixed football and this helped me meet lots of others in the department.

My research is a collaborative project between the Dave Adams’ group (Chemistry) and Alex Cowan’s group (SIRE). My work focuses on the use of photoconductive gels as charge mediators to drive the splitting of water, also known as the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). The idea is that organic materials like this can provide a cheap and competitive alternative to many of the current processes proposed for this reaction which tend to use inorganic and less-abundant materials. I find my research really interesting and motivational and soon I will be going to my first conference to present a poster on some of my work.