Introducing SCI Scholar, Sam Miller

9 Sept 2015

For over thirty years, SCI has supported and recognised the excellence of early career people, by aiding their studies in the form of an SCI Scholarship.

Since 1985, over 65 scholarships have been awarded which have not only given the recipients financial assistance, but have enabled them to broaden their network and strengthen their skills and knowledge. SCI Scholars receive access to publishing and mentoring opportunities and are given a platform to present their work amongst esteemed scientists and industrialists, thus raising their profile within the scientific community. In the past eight years alone, SCI has generously bequeathed nearly £115,000 of its charitable funds to SCI Scholars and the scientists of the future.

Sam Miller was awarded an SCI Scholarship in 2015. Below, he tells us about himself and his research project.

‘I was born in Leicester, England in 1989 and have been interested in chemistry since receiving my first chemistry set at the age of 8. I began my studies in 2008 with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. I developed an interest in organic chemistry and the pharmaceutical industry, and after my third year I spent a year as an intern at the AstraZeneca Strategic R&D centre in Mölndal, Sweden, where I worked in the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal (CVGI) section of the lead identification department. During this time I learned a great deal about practical organic synthesis and the workings of the industry.

‘On returning to Nottingham I carried out my MChem research project in the lab of Dr Ross Denton. My master’s thesis was titled The Vicinal Dichlorination of Alkenes with Sulfonyl Chloride. My time with the Denton group convinced me that I wanted to pursue a career in academic research.

‘In 2013 I began my postgraduate studies with Prof Michael George and Sir Martyn Poliakoff, also at the University of Nottingham. The aim of my PhD is to use photochemistry - particularly photo-oxygenation using oxygen gas - in the synthesis of valuable chemical products and to apply the principles of green chemistry to reduce the environmental impact and associated risks of photo-oxygenation in an industrial setting. This is a very varied project requiring knowledge of photochemistry, organic synthesis and chemical processing, amongst other things.

‘In my first year, my work was centred on the production of the antimalarial natural product artemisinin using photo-oxygenation. This was carried out in partnership with Sanofi who produce artemisinin on a multi-tonne scale - one of the few examples of photochemistry in industry. We developed two new, greener continuous processes for Artemisinin, and our work was published in the journal Nature Chemistry earlier this year (doi:10.1038/nchem.2261). Now, I am starting to take these ideas forward to the sustainable photochemical synthesis of other natural products, as part of the EPSRC funded Continuous Chemical Manufacture with Light (C2ML) project.’

Sam Miller,
University of Nottingham, SCI Scholar 2015 - 2017

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