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jo douglas-harris

Product and Applications Scientist, Venator

Choosing a career in STEM doesn't limit you, in fact it opens up so many more possibilities.

What do you do?

I work with titanium dioxide, which is a chemical that is in everything but that hardly anyone has heard of. Titanium dioxide is a white pigment used to make things look more white and more opaque. It's used in foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, make up, all sorts. I work in the Inks team, and I investigate what changes we can make to the titanium dioxide to optimise it for use on packaging including things like cereal boxes and crisp packets.

Why did you choose this field?

"My love of chemistry came from a love of baking."

In a lot of ways [chemistry and baking] are very similar. You change the recipe slightly and you get something different out at the end, and in both cases there's a lot of trial and improvement.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

When I was at school I didn't really know anything about university as no one in my family had been before. I defintiely didn't ever imagine that less than 10 years later I'd be graduating with a PhD in Chemical Engineering. At school I didn't even know what a PhD was!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working with people who are as enthusiastic about STEM as I am. I found it difficult at school as my friends didn't get as excited about science as I did, but working in teams where everyone shares the same passion is one of the best things about working in STEM.

Best advice for the next generation

STEM covers such a huge range of careers, literally everything around us has had involvement from a chemist, biologist, engineer, mathematician. So choosing a career in STEM doesn't limit you, in fact it opens up so many more possibilities. It can also be combined with other passions, for example if you also love writing you could think about science journalism, as we need people who understand STEM to write about STEM.

Fun fact

I can name all 50 states of America.