Rideal Travel Bursary recipient, Olivia Pabois, reports from Australia

Olivia Pabois, Rideal Travel Bursary AwardOlivia Pabois was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary to attend the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists (IACIS) Conference 2022 Brisbane, Australia. Here she tells us how she was able to showcase her ground-breaking invention and how she found networking a truly rewarding experience for her future career.

"I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working in the group of Prof Anwesha Sarkar, at the University of Leeds, UK. I attended the International Australian Colloid and Interface Science (IACIS) 2022 conference, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, from 26th to 30th June 2022, which covered a broad range of areas of interfacial and colloidal science, and where I had the opportunity to showcase my postdoctoral research work through a 20-minute talk.

"I presented my project in the ‘Interfacial Dynamics and Lubrication’ session. Dry mouth affects at least 1 in 10 adults (10 million people in the UK), predominantly elders. Largely driven by age-related chronic/neurogenerative diseases and polypharmacy, oral dryness significantly increases the risk of dental caries, periodontal diseases, candidiasis, oral ulceration, and dysphagia - all of which adversely impact the nutritional status and quality of life of elderly people. Numerous salivary replacers are commercially available, but none offers long-lasting relief due to their poor lubrication properties, thus forcing sufferers to use mouth spray repeatedly all day long to be able to eat. Inspired by human saliva, we have patented an innovative, super-lubricious colloidal formulation, composed of a proteinaceous microgel-reinforced biopolymeric hydrogel, which offers 95% more effective lubrication and a 50% longer relief period than both currently marketed saliva-replacing products and the naturally lubricating human saliva. As part of this project, I have been combining a wide range of expertise and techniques, including small-angle neutron, X-ray and light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, tribology combined with smooth and 3D-textured elastomeric surfaces, rheology, and interfacial techniques such as the quartz-crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring. This conference and theme were right within the scope of my research topic.

"From a scientific point of view, attending this major conference and presenting my recent research findings and ground-breaking invention enabled me to acquire various skills beneficial to both my postdoctoral project and future career. I got the chance to apply and further improve my effective scientific communication skills: I had to summarise the work I have been carrying out for the past two years, to get the main messages across in a clear and concise way, and to answer very specific questions at the intersection of colloid and health sciences. I also had the opportunity to have in-depth discussions with scientists working in the same research area, which allowed me to get valuable feedback and advice that were extremely useful for my work, in addition to enhancing my visibility and reinforcing the international dimension of my research career. In particular, I had the chance to meet and speak to researchers highly specialised in both neutron scattering and tribology, my main fields of research. This experience undoubtfully helped me further integrate within the colloid and interface science community. Finally, I learnt about the latest challenges and discoveries in both fundamental and applied colloid and interface science, which will certainly be a source of inspiration for my future work and will increase my scientific knowledge and profile.

"This experience was also rewarding from a professional networking perspective because I got an entry into the Australian and New Zealand colloid and interface community (with which I have only a few links as a European physicochemical scientist), and was able to interact with attendees, to share findings/knowledge, and to exchange experiences. This grant surely contributed to enhancing my future career prospects and achieving my career ambitions.

" I am thankful for the support of my supervisor and collaborators and for their contribution to the project. I am also grateful to the RSC/SCI for the Rideal Travel Bursary and Researcher Development Grant awarded, which allowed me to attend this international conference."

Olivia Pabois
PhD student
University of Leeds

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