Look out for the supermoon tonight!
Gilmorton Primary School (1997-2004), Rugby High School (2004-2011), Durham University (2011-2015), Edinburgh University (2015-present).
GCSEs, A Levels, BSc degree, Masters in Chemistry.
Morrisons, Kilworth House Hotel, The Crown Inn.
PhD student in small molecule activation by Uranium.
Polly Arnold, The University of Edinburgh.
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love making new molecules and using X-ray crystallography to see exactly what they look like.
I live in Edinburgh with my 2 hamsters, Polly and Jason.
I live in Edinburgh with my 2 hamsters, Polly and Jason. I named them after my bosses, before I realised that they were both boys. Polly and Jason the humans find this a bit confusing.
I volunteer on a helpline for injured bats and am working my way around Europe taking part in half marathons.
I work in a research lab, investigating the ways in which waste uranium may be able to help us carry out useful reactions.
Nuclear power stations provide around 10 % of the world’s electricity, with uranium being the most common nuclear fuel. Before it can be used as fuel, uranium that is mined from the earth undergoes a process called enrichment. This process increases percentage of the more radioactive isotope uranium 235.
The enrichment process produces vast quantities of a less radioactive isotope, uranium 238, known as depleted uranium. This depleted uranium is stockpiled all over the world and would take billions of years to decay naturally.
A catalyst is a substance that can increase the rate of a chemical reaction. The catalyst itself remains unchanged at the end of the reaction so only very small amounts of catalysts are needed even when reactions are being done on very large scales. Catalysts decrease the amount of energy needed in almost all industrial chemical processes, for example in the production of fertilizers, the processing of petrol and oil, and in the production of medicines. Most catalysts are molecules containing rare and expensive metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. These metals are very expensive, and they are running out!
Modern methods allow scientists to work safely with uranium and uranium containing molecules, so the focus of my research is on trying to make useful catalysts out of depleted uranium, at the same time as discovering brand new ways in which uranium can react!
My Typical Day
I spend most of my time doing reactions in the lab, but also spend time looking at my data in the ofice.
Most of the compounds that I make and work with are not stable in air. This means that if they are exposed to oxygen they decompose, sometimes by bursting into flames! Because of this my reactions have to be done in an atmosphere of nitrogen, so in a glove box (picture below) or on something called a Schlenk line. A Schlenk line is a system that allows you to suck all of the oxygen containing air out of reactions using a vacuum pump, and then pump in nitrogen in instead.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Custard doughnut enthusiast.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Published my first paper.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Seeing a research lab for the first time.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, all the time!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Sailed around the UK on a tallship.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I want a pet donkey. I want to live in a giant treehouse. I want to travel the world.
Tell us a joke.
I couldn’t think of a joke, so I drew a unicorn. I knew my art GCSE would serve me well.