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Future leader in laser science focuses on green energy

Exceptional science comes about in the same way as music, muses Dr Paul Donaldson: the best stuff happens when you’re jamming.

The Central Laser Facility (CLF) scientist has been awarded one of the first ever Future Leaders Fellowships and he hopes it will allow the creative juices to flow in much the same way as when he’s playing the guitar or piano.

The seven-year fellowship will allow Paul to remain hands-on in his catalyst and battery research, which could lead to greener transport in the future.

Currently, he is investigating how to turn biomass into something useful, looking at the kind of catalyst that could be used to convert methanol into gasoline using CLF’s Ultra laser. “The grand aim is to create a better-engineered catalyst,” he said. And a creative approach has paid off here too: a late decision to turn the heat up on the samples has begun to yield results.

The UK Research and Innovations (UKRI) fellowship will allow Paul to step outside the lab to work on developing new instruments and techniques to investigate batteries and catalysts, and to build a team pushing at the boundaries of his field, spectroscopy, benefiting from the world-beating lasers at CLF as well as the diverse range of scientists working at the site.

“RAL is an incredible campus for experimental science, and the catalysis hub at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) is all about collaborative research,” he explained. He says he feels supported by groups across STFC’s facilities.

Finding the space and time to make a real difference to society is what drives Paul. During the seven-year fellowship, he hopes to contribute to the long-term vision for CLF and interact with the scientific community around him. He describes it as using the creative process for scientific output. “There’s a constant flurry of activity in the lab, but doing something that matters is a real trick; it’s a step beyond just catching up,” he said.

Find more information on UKRI Future Leader Fellowships 

CLF’s Ultra laser is used to investigate the dynamics of complex biological systems using multiple colour, pulse length and repetition rate systems. Find out more about CLF’s lasers 


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Last updated: 11 June 2019


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