A ticket to Kingston upon Hull – Do you want one?

A ticket to Kingston upon Hull – Do you want one?

Endowed by Utrecht Network Young Researchers’ Grant 2022

‘If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet’ – read a sticker on the rear windscreen of a swishing jet black Mercedes-Benz. I captured this quote in my head just like how boron captures neutrons. Henceforth is a micro-nonfiction story about how this elapsing quote initiated a reaction in me leading to a  short research stay in the University of Hull, England under the supervision of Prof. Carl Redshaw, funded by the Utrecht Network Young Researchers’ Grant 2022, during the months February – March 2023.

Before we walk along further, I am Janaki Devi Somasundaram – a third-year PhD student, working under the supervision of Assoc.Prof. RNDr. Lukas Krivosudsky, in the Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.

(Jump-cutting) A day after seeing that quote, I came across the call for applications to the Utrecht Network Young Researchers’ Grant 2022 from my home university’s information cell stating that this grant is aimed to encourage the short-term (less than 2 months) research mobility of the students and staff by providing a grant money of 1000 EUR in the member institutions.

It caught my attention at once, as I was not in a situation to afford to go on a semester-long or a year-long exchange mobility program. I was intrigued to go through their website to be surprised to find a pretty straightforward application procedure with just three steps clearly numbered from 1- Fill application form, 2 – Get recommendation letter from the supervisor from home university, and 3 – Get acceptance letter from the supervisor from host university, and in no time, I was able to fetch and submit all these application documents in no time, due to the constant support from all the concerned supervisors and the head of the department of home university Prof. Dr. Jozef Noga. Post the selection process, I was glad to know that my Utrecht Network Young Researchers’ Grant application was selected.

I chose to travel to the University of Hull in England, United Kingdom for 6 weeks, as I saw it as my very first opportunity to visit the UK and I realized going through the UK visa application process in itself, had instored a lot of learnings. It was a treat to my ears to listen to the English language from the native tongues just like a pure rhythm, and as the saying goes – ‘New places always help us look at life differently’- and Yes, this short sojourn rejuvenated me by immersing myself into the British ways and values.

University of Hull is a notable university for the research in chemistry owing to the groundbreaking result of the discovery of liquid crystal molecules which constitutes the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) by renowned scientist George Gray.

Moving to the nucleus of this story now – I got an excellent opportunity to work in the esteemed research group of Prof. Carl Redshaw – who has published around 450 research papers and owns a h-index of 58 (as on date March 2023) and has contributed enormously in the field of polymers, calixarenes chemistry, catalysis etc,

In his research group, my project was to synthesize the early transition metal framework scaffolded with an organic ligand based catalyst for ring opening polymerization of ε-Caprolactone. During the 6 weeks stay, I had the prospects of familiarizing myself with air-sensitive techniques such as Schlenk-line usage and glove box.

On top of that, I have learnt hands-on the working methodologies of several analytical instruments such as the elemental analyzer (CHN) including the sample preparation with tin foil, powder X-ray diffractometer on two possible modes i.e., flat mode and capillary mode including the filling up of the capillaries, multinuclear NMR spectrometer, infrared spectrometer, liquid-chromatography mass spectrometer (LC-MS) and gas-chromatography mass spectrometer (GC-MS), gel permeation chromatography or size exclusion chromatography.

All in all, it was a great learning experience enriched with many lessons in chemistry as well as in life.

I am beyond grateful to GOD. I am thankful to Utrecht Network Young Researchers’ Grant for the funding and to the concerned officials Ms. Rita Vienažindienė, Ms. Silvia Mastrapasqua and Ms. Alessandra Autiero.

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone coming up in the row for making this research stay possible – to start with Prof. Carl Redshaw, Prof. Jozef Noga, Assoc. Prof. Lukas Krivosudsky, Dr. Grazia Francesconi, Dr. Timothy J. Prior, Dr. Robert Lewis, Mr. Michal Dzúrik, Ms. Magdaléna Belková, Ms. Sarah D. Ord, Ms. Rebecca Cundy, Mr. Nick Mithen, Mr. Gavin R. Pugh, my fellow lab mates Ms. Yi Gong,  Mr. Joseph Gbertyo, my friends and family.

This article is written by Janaki Devi Somasundaram, PhD student, Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janaki-devi-somasundaram-8207021b8