Women in Chemistry Conference

Suzie Hughes reports:

On the 8th of March I attended the 4th annual ‘Celebrating Women in Chemistry Conference and Careers Event’, hosted by the Women in Chemistry Group at the University of Nottingham. The day consisted of a number of talks from successful women both in academia and industry. They each described their starting points and the journeys they took to get to their current positions. Professor Katharine Reid (University of Nottingham) told of how in the early stages of her career she often lacked confidence, being the only woman in her research labs and struggling with comparing herself to others. She went on to become the first female lecturer in the Chemistry department at Nottingham and is now a member of the Faculty of Science Executive Board.

I think many in the audience could relate to this feeling of ‘not being good enough’, and it was inspiring to hear from women who had overcome these confidence barriers and progressed into leading roles. A wide variety of potential careers were covered in talks throughout the day, ranging from those in academia to start-up businesses and intellectual property, providing an insight into the breadth of opportunities out there for chemists. The recurring message that surfaced in most talks was ‘you’re better than you think you are’ – which is always encouraging to hear!

Find out more about the event at

New MSci project students!

This month we are joined by Matthew Liddle and Samuel Gale, who will be carrying out their Masters research projects with the group. Matt’s project is looking at phase behaviour of a carboxyphosphonate MOF, BIRM-1, which has potential use in ion exchange and transport. Sam’s project is investigating relationships between the physical properties of hybrid perovskite ferroelectrics and their structural chemistry.

Both Sam and Matt also have a second co-supervisor, Prof Paul Anderson, as well as his PhD student Joe Barker, who joins us as an honorary group member involved in day-to-day supervision of the projects.

Welcome, Sam, Matt and Joe!

MSci project hand-in

Congratulations to Vicky and Matt for handing in their MSci theses today!

The group celebrated the occasion with a wonderfully al-fresco lunch and bubbly at Joe’s bar. Much like today’s weather, the projects this year were not exactly free from disruption but Vicky and Matt both did a great job nevertheless!

It was great to have you in the group – good luck for all your future endeavours and well done again!

Origins of Ferroelectricity

Congratulations to former Masters student Dom Allen, whose work on ferroelectricity in MDABCO-based perovskites has just been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C!

MDABCO perovskites (MDABCO = N-methyl-1,4-diazoniabicyclo[2.2.2]octane) are one of a new class of ferroelectric materials, which have properties that rival best-in-class materials such as barium titanate or lead zirconate titanate. Ferroelectrics have a wide range of hugely important applications as capacitors and memory storage (e.g., in smartphones and computers), sensors, actuators and non-linear optics.

Dom’s modelling showed that the key ingredients that drive spontaneous polarisation in [MDABCO][NH4][I3] and related structures are (i) alignment of the A-site cation along <111> directions, (ii) ever-present dipolar coupling, and (iii) strain coupling between neighbouring sites. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, he found that hydrogen bonding, whilst it may still be important in determining the magnitude of polarisation or transition temperature, is actually not essential to drive this phenomenon.

The paper, which was invited for cover art, is Open Access and can be read here.

Dom’s work was supplemented by first-principles calculations from Nick Bristowe and his co-supervisor at Oxford was Andrew Goodwin. Well done all!