My name is Anne Schmidt and I am in the middle of my last year of PhD. If I would have to describe my PhD with a famous people it would be Christoph Kolumbus. Why? The first reason has nothing to do with the science. I am originally from Germany, but do my PhD here in Belfast at QUILL (Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratory). This PhD is in cooperation with UMICORE a company placed in Belgium and I have to go there quite often to do some specific experiment. Such I am ending up to spend 1/3 in Belgium and 2/3 in Belfast. That is great. I am able to get to know both cultures a little bit more. Additionally I am traveling to conferences (e.g. in Toronto) and I am meeting people from all over the world. My friends are now German, Italian, Spanish, Indian, … – at the moment I am living EU.
Second reason is my actual PhD, the cleaning of gas streams from metals using ionic liquids. Even there was some work done with other compounds, like activates carbon, or extraction from a water solution was studied already, nothing relating to my aim. However, ionic liquids are a quite new group of chemical compounds with a wide variety. It is assumed that up to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 different ionic liquids are possible. That is a 1 with a lot of 0 isn’t it? So you can imagine me sitting somewhere at the ocean in a small boat looking for a needle in a haystack. However, each time I see a bird on the horizon, I have my small happy moment, knowing somewhere has to be at least an island. To discover these islands is always exciting and surprising. However, often I have to leave the island before knowing it inside out, because my aim are not the islands, it is America.
Probably the most exciting side of the PhD for me is to supervise a Bachelor, Master or summer (often students from other Universities doing an internship of 4-12 weeks) students.For me it is great to see what is possible with ionic liquids and these students starting to row their own little boat in the middle of the ocean. In case of my career, there is still a very long way to go till America, but I still feel excited and cannot wait to meet another boat or the next island. Maybe one day I will stay there. Maybe I will finally get to America. Anyway I learned that the most important things in science are: 1. Being creative, 2. Be open for unexpected, 3. Enjoy the small things, 4. Stay motivated, 5. Keep going. – Where is the butterfly?
Catch Anne on her Soapbox this saturday June 20th 2-5pm in Belfast, where she will be talking about “onic liquids and its applications: Selective removal of metals”.