I’m Hamish. I’m an Early Career Researcher and a scientist. I do science. That’s my job, but it’s also something deeper that I believe unites us all – a desire for knowledge. After all, the word science derives from “scire”, meaning “to know” in latin.
This blog has two main aims. Firstly, I want to talk about the science that I do and that other scientists around the world are doing. There’s a lot of awesome, cool and important work being done that just gets published in technical papers and most people don’t get to hear about it. Secondly, I want to talk about what life is like as a scientist, particularly as a young aspiring researcher; I hope it can be a small window onto an otherwise mysterious world that few people get a glimpse of. I want to share with you all the successes and all the failures, as well as the struggles and joys that come with the job.
Biography in brief
I’m a scientist interested in how the structures of materials influence their physical properties, and how to make and manipulate materials to control their behaviour. That’s what my research tends to focus on, but I also have a keen interest in the ethics of science and how it’s communicated to the wider public. I have a Masters degree and PhD from Cambridge University, and I’ve held research positions at the National Institute for Materials Science, Japan, and Liverpool University, UK. I’m currently a Glasstone Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK, where I lead a small research group and in my spare time try to do other things that bear some semblance to normal life, whatever that is, too.
I was born and grew up in Bedford, where I was educated at St John Rigby Lower School and then Bedford Modern School (1996-2004). I read Natural Sciences at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University (2004-8), taking Materials Science, Physics and Chemistry in earlier years before specializing in Chemistry in the fourth year. My Part III (Masters) project was with Simon Humphrey working on porous coordination polymers.
I moved across the city centre to the Materials Science and Metallurgy Department to do a PhD (2008-12) with Tony Cheetham, working on the synthesis and structure control of dense, lithium-based coordination polymers. After submitting my thesis I stayed to pursue post-doc research (2012-14), working on battery properties and structural transformations of coordination polymers, as well as managing the lab’s move to the new department building in West Cambridge.
In early 2014 I moved to Japan to work at the National Institute for Materials Science, NIMS, in my first independent research position, studying coordination polymers in a wide range of aspects, from the fundamental processes of their crystallization to their use as nanomaterials in batteries and sensors. At NIMS I was part of the International Center for Young Scientists, ICYS, led by Kenjiro Miyano and the World Premier International Research Center Initiative, International Center of Materials Nanoarchitectonics, MANA, led by Masakazu Aono and Yoshio Bando, which gave me access to some great equipment, people and ideas.
In the summer of 2016 I spent two months as an Honorary Visiting Researcher at the University of Liverpool, UK, working with Andrew Cooper’s group to study the formation of organic molecular crystals using X-ray diffraction. I then took a couple of months out and came back to the UK properly to do some work-life rebalancing and get married.
Since October 2016, I’ve been working at the University of Oxford as a Glasstone Research Fellow, associated with Andrew Goodwin’s group in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory. I’m also starting my own research group. Alongside continuing some existing projects, I’ll be tapping into their expertise to investigate the crystallography of flexible materials under pressure, temperature and electric fields. I also hold an Extraordinary Junior Research Fellowship at the Queen’s College.
When I’m not doing scientific research I enjoy science outreach, table tennis, playing music and getting outdoors: running, cycling, walking, birdwatching, cloud watching and even a bit of gardening when given half a chance! I love cooking, eating and travelling; I’ve been very fortunate to have had several opportunities to experience new languages, cultures and cuisines, and while I was in Japan I blogged about my experiences outside the lab here. For my sins I’m also a supporter of the Scottish rugby team and Arsenal FC…