Chemistry was right move for me, says Isabella Stocker

9 Dec 2011

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in science?
I always felt the drive to understand why things are the way they are. So many things can be explained by chemistry - the way our bodies work, cooking, medicines, love, electronics... I knew I had to study chemistry and I never regretted my decision!

What is your research topic?
My research is concerned with the calcium carbonate surface in contact with water and oil. The interface is important in many academic and industrial areas, not least biomineralisation or scale deposition in domestic and industrial situations. I study how organic compounds behave at the interface and how we can influence the behaviour.

What is innovative about your most recent research project?
I use the technique of neutron reflection to investigate interactions at this important interface. Neutron reflection provides molecular resolution of surface structures. This has never been achieved before on calcium carbonate and comes with many challenges, like surface dissolution, which can have a detrimental effect on the experiment. Our success allows us not only to investigate the calcium carbonate - liquid interface, but also many other important mineral surfaces.

Are there any potential applications or any competitive advantages for industry as a result of your research?
Our expertise on the behaviour of calcium carbonate in contact with water will hopefully help in the development of anti-scaling agents. While scale deposition in a domestic household can be bothersome it is very costly on an industrial scale and all efforts need to be made to prevent it.

Has this work led your group to any other promising research?
Our achievement of the characterisation of the carbonate surface by neutron reflection has led us to consider several other mineral and metal surfaces using a similar approach.

What have been your proudest achievements so far?
Academically, my greatest success, by far, was the application of the outstanding technique of neutron reflection to the calcium carbonate surface. On an extra-curricular level I am proud of having revived the Cambridge University Chemical Society. This student society was previously dormant but attendance to our weekly events was constantly increasing under my presidency.

What is the next milestone in your career?
I am planning to finish my postgraduate studies in spring 2012 and am looking forward to new challenges in an industrial career.

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