St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, Barry, Wales (1979-1986); University of East Anglia, Norwich, England (1986-1993)
BSc Chemistry (1989); PhD Chemistry (University of East Anglia 1993)
Researcher at University of Nottingham (1993-1994); Researcher at University College Dublin (1994-1999)
Lecturer in Chemistry (since 1999)
University College Cork
Favourite thing to do in science There are so many…I really love discussing my research, planning experiments and analysing the results, but my favourite thing is probably doing Chemistry Magic Shows – I never get tired of seeing the smiles and hearing all those oooohs, aaaahs, laughs and screams from the audience!
I teach chemistry at university and also do research on air pollution and climate change.
Along with some colleagues at my university, I set up a research group called “The Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry”… or CRAC Lab for short. At the moment we have around 10 people working on a range of research projects related to particles in the atmosphere. We do experiments in the lab to work out how some particles are formed in air. We also take our instruments to different places to measure the chemicals in particles and try to work out where they come from. Last year one of my students spent 2 months on the French island of Corsica and right now our equipment is in Killarney (Co. Kerry) as part of an EPA project looking at air pollution from coal/peat/wood burning.
My Typical Day
Any combination of the following….teaching chemistry, discussing experiments and results with my research team, writing articles or research proposals, presenting my research at conferences.
What I'd do with the money
Use it to develop a cool demonstration lecture on air pollution and climate change that I would give at schools around the country.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, playful, silly (my two kids chose those words!)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Recently I’be been listening to Paolo Nutini, The Script and Imelda May….but my all-time favourite band is The Beatles!
What's your favourite food?
My wife’s roast beef dinner with lots of yorkshire puddings.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Piloting an aeroplane – what a buzz!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I think I wanted a sensible job like being an accountant. Thankfully I became interested in Chemistry!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes….more will be revealed over the next few weeks.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Maths to begin with, but in the end it was Chemistry.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Joined large international projects and get to meet scientists from all over the world in cool places like Japan, Korea, Canada, USA…
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I loved doing experiments in the chemistry lab at school and I still do!
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I’d like to be able to help others….so probably a doctor or teacher.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
good health, good fortune and to go on a (return!) trip to outer space.
Tell us a joke.
Q: Why can you never trust atoms? A: They make up everything!