News and events

14 Mar 2019

Loughborough Chemistry PhD students enjoy success in this year’s #RSCPoster Twitter Conference

On Tuesday 5th May until Wednesday 6th May, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) held its annual #RSCPoster Twitter Conference – an online event dedicated to bringing members of the scientific research community together to share their work and engage in scientific debate. Now in its fifth year, the conference saw over 500 delegates share their posters with a global audience of over 2 million, including PhD researchers from Loughborough University.

Among the participants was Adam Price, a Chemistry PhD student at Loughborough, who won the 2nd place prize in the Analytical Chemistry category for his poster titled “Compounds at the Click of a Button”. His research explores ways in which 3D printing can be used for real-time reaction monitoring and automated chemical synthesis.

We asked Adam why he decided to get involved in this year’s #RSCPoster competition.

“I was very close with the PhD students that worked in my laboratory whilst I was an undergrad,” he explained. “During the Poster competition in 2018 I saw the excitement among everyone who was getting recognition for their work and thought that it was a fantastic opportunity to make some new contacts.”

For Adam taking part in this year’s conference has done just that. “I have been in contact with a number of fantastic people who have helped me and suggested areas I could explore to further my research. I have even been able to form a useful collaboration as a result of the competition,” he told us.

The RSC describes the 2019 conference as its “biggest and best yet” with a total of 3186 contributors and 9759 tweets receiving a total of 14 million impressions!

Adam said that the #RSCPoster conference was a great opportunity to share his research and get constructive feedback.

“The twitter competition really helped me to, not only make new contacts, but also question aspects of my work that I had previously overlooked,” he said. “It also gave me the chance to learn more about the research my peers are working on.”

“As 3D printing is becoming more affordable and accessible to people, we wanted to use it as a tool to design and ‘open source’ devices that could be integrated with standard laboratory analytical equipment. The overall aim is to facilitate research groups with components that allow them to monitor chemical reactions in flow without breaking the bank! This is referred to as in-line analysis, equipment of this nature is already commercially available but comes with a price tag so high that the area of study remains outside the reach of many groups. Monitoring the progression of reactions in real-time can be used to generate a feedback loop to a computer which can, in turn, automate and optimise the entire process.”

To take part in the Twitter conference researchers are required to tweet an image of their poster along with hashtag #RSCPoster and the most appropriate subject category hashtag. Creating a poster that is eye-catching and communicates information effectively is an essential part of the process.

“I chose to do an infographic based on this result and so began experimenting with colour schemes over a series of mood boards,” Adam told us. “I thought the lime green really stood out against petrol blue and so began creating my cartoon icons to effectively communicate my research. Anybody who works with MATLAB software when writing automation code will understand the sense of satisfaction that comes with finally pressing ‘F5’ to execute the script, so I thought the poster should celebrate this!”

Another Loughborough University PhD student who enjoyed a successful #RSCPoster conference this year was Lizzie Ashton, who received 2nd prize in the #RSCMaterials category and a special commendation for her comic book-inspired poster on High Energy Density Hydrogen Storage.

"My research looks at solid state storage of hydrogen for use in mobile fuel cells application," Lizzie told us. "Hydrogen-powered cars currently store hydrogen in large, heavey and highly pressurised cylinders; I am looking at much smaller, lightweight methods of hydrogen storage to make them more practical. Complex metal hydrides store a lot of hydrogen in a small space are very lightweight. Perfect for mobile applications such as drones, small electrical devices, as well as automotive. I release the hydrogen by reacting the hydrides with water vapour."

"I used Microsoft Powerpoint to create my poster and was inspired by comic books and superheroes to make my research look interesting and exciting. I tried to keep my poster as simple as possible to make it easily readable on Twitter. I also wanted it to be bright and colourful to stand out against others when searching the hashtag."

Lizzie's research generated a lot of interest over the course of the conference with Lizzie engaging with many Twitter users asking questions about her work. "Engaging with people online allowed me to learn a lot about the variety of research similar to my area. I also created a much larger network of contacts from different universities and companies - something that has already been beneficial to my research.

Like Adam, Lizzie won the second place cash prize in her category and an additional special commendation prize. She found taking part in the conference hugely enjoyable.

"I think it's brilliant being able to showcase your work worldwide from the comfort of your own home, desk, or lab - also with as many snacks as you desire!" she explained. "It's a fun, creative way to get involved in a conference and it was the previous success of my colleagues that motivated me to participate. Particularly I feel you benefit from the questions you get asked as they require you to think more deeply about your research and also highlight what opinions, ideas and suggestions other people may have."

The Department of Chemistry and the School of Science congratulates Lizzie and Adam on their success and hopes their achievements will inspire more of our PhD students to take part in the #RSCPoster Twitter Conference next year.

Find out more about this year's conference and see all the winners here.