Introducing Jessica Westlake – SCI Sydney Andrews Scholar 2022

09 November 2022

First piloted in 2021, SCI launched a new Scholarship Scheme, the SCI Sydney Andrew Scholarships, to support 10 PhD students studying subjects in emerging areas of agriculture and the chemical industry.

We are delighted to announce that Jessica Westlake, from the University of Bath, has been awarded an SCI Sydney Andrew Scholarship of £3,000 to support her PhD project, “Less Plastic, More Tea: Active, Biodegradable Food Packaging”.

Dr Sydney Andrew, a brilliant industrial chemical engineer who exemplified the SCI mission of encouraging the application of chemical and related sciences for public benefit, died in November 2011. A life member of SCI, Dr Andrew was awarded the Society’s Medal and have a lecture on ‘Neglected Science: a view from industry’. He bequeathed a substantial share of his estate to SCI for the support of scientific innovation on the theme of neglected science. These are areas of science which, though of importance in agriculture and the chemical industry, receive scant attention from academic research, and for academic research into Neglected Science

Jessica Westlake, Sydney Andrews Scholar 2022Here Jessica tells us about her work:

'My name is Jessica Westlake, I am currently starting the second year of my PhD in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath, under the supervision of Dr Ming Xie and Professor Andrew Burrows (Department of Chemistry).

'My research focuses on the formation of biodegradable active packaging materials with controlled release properties. These materials are designed as alternatives to conventional plastics for food packaging applications. Active packaging functions to reduce food waste by prolonging the shelf-life of food via the release of antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds or the sequestration of degradation-enhancing gases. Importantly, active packaging aims to tackle two key environmental issues driving climate change: food waste and plastic waste. I am working on bio-based, biodegradable materials such as cellulose-derivatives and chitosan. To these biopolymers, I am incorporating antimicrobial compounds to make composite materials which can reduce food-degradation. I am working towards achieving the controlled release of these active compounds to optimise the effect of the material. The methods I am currently using to achieve this include encapsulation within nanoparticles, encapsulation within electro spun fibres, and cross-linking biopolymers.

'I carried out my Undergraduate degree at the University of Bath, where I obtained a master’s degree in Chemistry (MChem Chemistry for Drug Discovery with Industrial Training). During my undergraduate degree, I also carried out a year-long placement at a contract research organisation in Oxford. During this placement, I worked to synthesise therapeutic medicinal compounds. In the final year of my MChem, the module on sustainable chemistry inspired me to move into a different field of research. I am highly motivated by the field of sustainable materials research, and I enjoy working on materials that can have clear translational impacts on society.

'I am grateful to have been awarded the Sydney Andrews SCI scholarship which will help to support me in my endeavours to carry out an internship or research visit during my PhD.'

Jessica Westlake
PhD student
University of Bath

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