Summer Scholarship Experience

by Alex Hayes

Alex at work in Associate Professor Sarah Harmer’s lab.

As a recipient of the Nanoscale Summer Research Scholarship I had the opportunity to gain laboratory experience under Research Leader Associate Professor Sarah Harmer for a period of 8 weeks over the summer.

My role was to assist PhD candidate Zoe in her efforts to study and characterise the surface chemistry of minerals, including Pyrrhotite and Pentlandite. Understanding of mineral surface chemistry is necessary to formulate potential attachment mechanisms for Biomolecules in order to develop an environmentally friendly alternative to existing mineral separation techniques.

Any hesitation I had throughout my first week was soon swept away, and I was quickly accepted by Zoe and fellow PhD candidates Belinda and Connor as a member of The Microbe Factory lab group. Throughout my 8 weeks, I partook in a variety of tasks such as re-culturing bacteria, synthesising minerals, XRD and FTIR analysis of mineral samples and learning valuable research skills that will benefit me in future studies.

The highlights of my time were the off-campus days at Adelaide Microscopy using the SEM, and days at the Mawson Lakes campus at UniSA using the monochromatic XPS. These experiences allowed me to undertake sample preparation processes, observe the use of and operate high performance scientific instruments, and get involved with physics based research through the collection and interpretation of data about mineral composition.

I would like to issue my sincerest gratitude to Sarah for giving me this wonderful opportunity, as well as my deepest thanks to Zoe, Belinda and Connor for allowing me to experience research based physics in a fantastic welcoming environment, for sharing their research experiences and for teaching me a wide variety of techniques I will be able to apply in my future endeavours.

To those that are on the fence about applying for scholarships, in particular with the Centre for NanoScale Science and Technology, don’t miss out on the opportunity. This scholarship has been the most exciting and profoundly beneficial experience of my young scientific career, and will be beneficial to anyone else who applies.



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