Page 10 - PERIODIC Magazine Issue 7
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Pr         ofessor

                    Charlotte Williams

                                   In the award-              Like the film, Professor Williams has received many awards.
                                   winning 1967 film          Earlier this year she was awarded the 2019 Lord Lewis
                                   The Graduate, Mr.          Lectureship in Materials Chemistry by the Chemistry
                                                              Department at the University of Cambridge. As part of the
                                   McGuire tells the          lectureship, Professor Williams spent a week in Cambridge
                                   fresh out of college       delivering a lecture series and meeting with academics in
                                   Benjamin that he           chemistry and chemical engineering. She will also receive
                                   wants to “say one          the 2018 Macro Group UK Medal at a symposium this
                                   word to [him]. Just        November for her “significant and substantial contribution to
          Professor Charlotte Williams                        the development of polymer science”. Macro Group UK, fully
                                   one word”. What            known as The Pure and Applied Macromolecular Chemistry
              is this single word, which has been             Group, is a multidisciplinary group closely affiliated with the
              ranked No. 42 in the American Film              Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Society for Chemistry and
              Institute’s list of top 100 quotations          Industry (SCI), the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the Institute of
              from American cinema? “Plastics,”               Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). For Professor Williams,
                                                              this prize is a recognition of her team from the beginning of her
              Mr. McGuire implores, “there’s a                professorship to the present. It is also extra special because
              great future in plastics. Think about           the winner of the 2018 Macro Group UK Young Researchers
              it. Will you think about it?” In the            Medal happens to be Dr. Hugo Bronstein, an Oxford Chemistry
              52 years since the film premiered,              alumnus and one of Professor Williams’s first doctoral students!
              plastics have certainly proliferated              After completing a PhD studying polyethylenes at Imperial
              in our world, from ways life-saving             College London, Professor Williams moved to the University
              to environmentally damaging. The                of Minnesota in the USA as a postdoctoral fellow. She
              next stage for plastics is to combine           describes her time in Minnesota, a centre for the development
              sustainability with utility, and Professor      and manufacturing of biodegradable plastics, as “truly
              Charlotte Williams is at the forefront          transformative”. Inspired by the potential of these materials,
                                                              Professor Williams has since created innovative polymers using
              of this research. Her leadership in             unconventional raw materials and activation methods. Three
              the field of plastics research has              active areas of research in the Williams group include the use of
              been recognised and promoted by a               carbon dioxide as a raw material; switch catalysis for controlled
              recent five-year Established Career             block polymerisation; and the development of biodegradable
              Fellowship from the Engineering and             polymers.
              Physical Sciences Research Council              Substituting fossil fuels for waste CO2
              (ESPRC).  The Williams group will use           In a double-pronged approach, research from the Williams
              the £1.5 million fellowship to build on         group both reduces the use of fossil fuels and turns waste CO2
              their current research and investigate          into useful material. This is made possible by catalysts which
              how to make plastics production                 activate CO2 to make polymers, allowing a 30-50% decrease in
                                                              the use of petrochemical raw material compared to conventional
              more environmentally friendly, in               methods. The catalysts, consisting of two different metals
              collaboration with industry and                 coordinated by a ring-shaped molecule, are highly efficient
              academic partners.                              even at low pressures of CO2 (1 bar) and tolerate common
                                                              contaminants such as water. Currently, the group is investigating
                                                              why these bimetallic catalysts are significantly more active than
                                                              their monometallic analogues.
            Periodic        The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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