Alice Bumstead

PhD Student, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge

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Study what you enjoy purely because you enjoy it.

What do you do?

As part of my PhD, I study a class of ultra-high surface area materials called metal-organic frameworks or MOFs. A fact I like about them is that 1 gram of MOF can have an internal surface area larger than a football pitch! I focus specifically on a small set of these materials that have been found to melt and form porous liquids. My aim is to try and understand this process and so find new porous liquids with interesting properties.

Why did you choose this field?

My parents are both scientists so have always encouraged me to pursue STEM subjects. So, I studied chemistry for my undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews. Whist there I had a really inspirational project supervisor who sparked my interest in porous materials and crystallography. They gave me the confidence to apply for my PhD. So, now I get to research what I love every day.

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

I come from a small town in Scotland and have always lived close to home so I think a big achievement for me was being accepted on my PhD course and moving to Cambridge. In the last year my confidence has improved a lot and I even travelled all the way to New Zealand for a conference. If you told me a few years ago that I would be doing all of these things I don’t think I would believe you!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because every day you get to learn something new. Knowing that each day you are finding out a little bit more about chemistry that no one else knows yet is pretty cool. Something I always look forward to is having creative discussions with my friends about new ideas to try in the lab. These ideas often turn out to be the best ones!

Best advice for next generation?

Study what you enjoy purely because you enjoy it and not because someone else thinks you should. Also, it isn’t always easy (especially when others are critical) but try to believe in yourself.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.”

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