Welcome back after the BCA Spring meeting! It was fantastic to see so many young crystallographers at the satalite meeting and making such a big impact over the whole meeting, more to follow! In the mean time we have the pleasure to introduce Matthew Dunstan who sits on the YCG committee as our Vice Chair.
Research Fellow in Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
What do you currently research?
I research functional materials, and how to predict their performance using a mixture of computational, synthetic and analytical approaches. The types of applications I am interested in include carbon capture and storage, chemical looping, fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. I make use of large databases of calculated materials like the Materials Project (which is freely available to check out – www.materialsproject.org).
What is your favourite thing about being a crystallographer?
Solving a brand new structure, especially a particularly complicated structure, is incredibly rewarding. For example, sometimes the atoms in a material are modulated – they are nudged up or down in consecutive unit cells – and solving these structures is quite a challenge. Better yet, solving a structure also gives you a lot of interesting insights as to why that material acts the way it does.
Who, or what, inspires you to do science?
I like the idea of uncovering the underlying rules that govern how different physical processes work – and making sense of the unknown is something that drives me each day. I like to think that what I’m doing might help others in the future (even if my contribution is very small!). I’ve also been lucky to be inspired by some fantastic role models that I’ve been able to work with so far, and their ability to do great science and care about the people they work with. In particular, the crystallography community is very friendly, which helps!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out in scientific research?
Working with other people is a fundamental skill you need to develop and hone if you want to be a successful scientist. There are so many different relationships you need to develop and foster, with your supervisor, your colleagues in the lab, with collaborators, with technical staff, and managing these relationships is as important (if not more important) than your individual skill at research.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy designing board and card games, to date I’ve had 7 published with more to come! The process is actually surprisingly akin to research, and it helps to have something else to work on, especially when research isn’t going that well.