SCI Messel Travel Bursary Recipient, Yunqing Zhu, Reports from Warwick

In 2016 Yunqing Zhu was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the Warwick Polymer Conference 2016, which took place between 11 and 14 July at the University of Warwick, Warwickshire. Here, he explains that attending the conference allowed him to present to, and network with, one of the biggest gatherings of polymer scientists in the world.

‘I am a final year PhD student at the Imperial College of London, studying chemoselective sequence controlled polymerisation via the combination of ring-opening copolymerisation of cyclic anhydrides/epoxides and ring-opening polymerisation of lactones. In addition to this, I am also studying the mechanical properties of the obtained block copolymers, including thermoplastic elastomeric behavior and shape memory effect. My work aims to develop new catalytic routes towards preparing novel functional polyesters with high value application potentials using sustainable monomers.

‘Thanks to the SCI Messel Travel Bursary, I was able to present work undertaken during my PhD at the Warwick Polymer Conference 2016 which took place at the University of Warwick. This is one of the largest gatherings of polymer scientists in the world with more than six hundred attendees. Over a hundred high quality talks were given by brilliant researchers and over three hundred posters were presented, covering almost all the hot topics in the field of polymer science.

‘Although over three hundred posters were presented, the poster session was very well organised and took place 3 times every day. The atmosphere was actually quite informal which favored the discussion between students and academics. Most importantly, it created a nice environment for networking.

‘My poster presentation entitled 'Renewable and Degradable Multi-block Polyester Networks with Tunable Elasticity and Shape Memory effects' was quite attractive to some of the researchers. I introduced my work to people from both academia and industry and engaged in discussion with the audience who were very interested in my work. Most of the discussion was quite fruitful and I received many excellent comments which will certainly benefit my work in the future. Although my poster session was in the afternoon on the second day of the conference, it offered me the opportunity to better prepare my presentation and also to learn from other poster presenters before me.

‘My attention during the conference was mainly focused on the sustainable and biodegradable polymers and polymers for biomedical applications, which are quite relevant to my PhD research project as well as my personal interests. One of the most exciting talks was given by Prof Molly Stevens. The progress her group has made on scaffolding and tissue engineering was very impressive, especially when she demonstrated that the scaffolding made in her Lab had already been tested on pigs and showed excellent properties. The other thing that is quite interesting is the nano-needle developed by her group. Apparently, it can be used as an efficient drug delivery vehicle. The talk given by Prof Filip Du Prez was also very interesting. He presented the new type of material called vitrimer developed by his group, which is covalently cross-linked but can be processed using normal processing techniques. I was aware of this type of material for a while, but still I was glad to know they have made progress. He even brought some vitrimer sheets and passed around audience. The highlight of the conference for me was the talk given by Prof Michael Shaver. The research orientation of his group is quite similar to my PhD project, which mainly focuses on ring-opening polymerisation to make functional biodegradable materials using organometallic catalysts. I learned quite a lot from his talk and even formed some new ideas to be tested in my own project. In addition, I also went to the talk about supramolecular polymer synthesis given by Prof Takuzo Aida. It was the first time that I listened to the brilliant topic ‘First initiator-driven chain growth supramolecular polymerisation’.

‘The conference was very well organised by the University of Warwick and Prof Dave Haddleton. In addition to the talks, some half-day trips were also provided. We visited Warwick Castle in a group and learnt quite a lot about the history of the castle and Warwick. After we came back to the campus, we went to the pub with the new friends we had made and ate some nice food as well. The banquet on the 3rd day of the conference was also very good, which gave me another opportunity to network.

‘I think attending the Warwick Polymer conference 2016 was a great opportunity for me to both present my work to the professional audience and network with experts with different scientific backgrounds. I am sure my experience of attending the conference will benefit my awareness of the hot-topics in the field and also my long-term career prospects, considering that I am going to move to the University of Oxford to begin my first postdoctoral position in their Chemistry Department.

‘It is highly appreciated that SCI supported me to go to this conference. I would also like to thank my supervisor Prof Charlotte Williams for her support. Last but not least, thanks go to the University of Warwick and Prof Dave Haddleton for hosting such a great conference.’

Yunqing Zhu,
PhD Student, Imperial College of London

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