This week we introduce out newly elected Physical Crystallography Group (PCG) representative George Sackman.
PhD researcher at the University of Oxford
What do you currently research?
At Oxford, I am working on new approaches for studying air sensitive hydride materials by neutron diffraction. Neutron single-crystal diffraction is essential for the determination of accurate hydrogen atom positions in solids, and has application in locating hydride ions in inorganic and organometallic materials. Many technologically important materials, e.g. catalytic intermediates, contain hydride or coordinated hydrogen. I want to understand the functionality of these materials, and this requires a full determination of the hydrogen atom positions within the structure. I am also interested in distinguishing disorder in a variety of systems using ab initio computational methods.
What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
I have a puzzle drive, and crystallography is full of interesting puzzles to solve! Whether you are a physicist, chemist or biologist, you are likely to be interested in the structure and properties of the systems you are working with. As a result, a crystallographer tends to have a high degree of interesting collaborative problems to solve with other research groups, across the full breadth of physical and life sciences.
Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
During my time at school, I saw a documentary focusing on Richard Feynman. Contained within was a series of simple and understandable scientific explanations for everyday phenomena. His enthusiasm for the subject was evident, infectious and quickly made an impression on me. At its core, it is the pleasure of finding things out, and helping others transition from confusion to clarity, that inspires and drives me.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
Continually challenge your assumptions, and do not be afraid to go back to basics and try a new approach to your research problem!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I try (and mostly fail) to keep fit through long-distance running: 10k and half marathon races mainly. When I am at home, I particularly enjoy reading (currently anything and everything written by Isaac Asimov). I am also into drawing and telling stories visually, and then linking that hobby back into how I communicate my research to others. Many of the best posters, papers and presentations I have seen have a good story to tell!