2020 Ottewill International Travel Scholarship – Report

A Report from the Recipient of the 2020 Ottewill International Travel Scholarship

ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Exposition

Philadelphia, PA, USA, 22-26 March 2020

(conference cancelled due to the
ongoing COVID-19 pandemic)

In March 2020, I was planning to attend the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia, PA, USA. ACS National Meetings are most possibly the largest chemistry-related conferences that occur twice every year, gathering scientists of different backgrounds from all around the world. The conference typically runs over five days with parallel sessions and specific symposia for each ACS Division occurring every day at different sites (including sessions dedicated entirely to poster presentations, workshops and networking events). This year’s ACS Spring Meeting was supposed to be of particular significance to polymer and materials scientists as the main focus area of the conference was on “Macromolecular Chemistry: The Second Century”. As such, the majority of topics covered during this conference through oral and poster presentations by senior academics, post-docs and students in polymer and colloid science were expected to be closely relevant to my field of expertise and my PhD project on the preparation of polymeric vesicles with tuneable membrane properties via aqueous polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA).

I was really looking forward to attending this conference, since it was going to be the first ACS conference for me, in which I was aiming to present a summary of my PhD work through two 20 minute oral talks and two poster presentations given that my life as a postgraduate student was coming to an end in early summer of the same year. Moreover, I had already been notified that I was the recipient of the 2020 Ottewill International Travel Scholarship to financially support my trip-related expenses and conference registration fees, and that I would be also be receiving the “Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research” award along with the rest of the 2020 class by the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry (https://www.polyacs.net/poly2020excellencesite).

To great disappointment for thousands of registrants, but definitely after careful assessment of the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the USA and Europe at that time, the organizers decided to cancel the on-site conference and move all oral and poster presentations to an online open-access platform (SciMeetings) to ensure everyone’s safety. Not surprisingly, a few days after the cancellation announcement, travel restrictions to and from the UK and USA were implemented suggesting that the right choice had been made by the conference organizers.

In particular, one of the projects I was really excited to present in front of the international polymer and colloids communities had been published only a couple of months before the ACS Spring 2020 Meeting in J. Am. Chem. Soc. The paper describes a seminal example of spontaneous, membrane tension-driven fusion of polymeric vesicles during aqueous ring-opening metathesis polymerization-induced self-assembly (ROMPISA) for formation of tubular polymersomes with controlled characteristics. Such unique behavior of synthetic self-assembled formulations hadn’t been observed until our investigations at the University of Birmingham, whilst in natural systems this process is typically facilitated by specific fusion-promoting proteins. The original article can be found online in open-access form at Varlas et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 20234-20248 (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jacs.9b10152). Additionally, the conference abstract and presentation slides for this project can be found at the ACS SciMeetings website by following this link: https://doi.org/10.1021/scimeetings.0c00356.

Overall, I am truly grateful that the Ottewill International Travel Scholarship Award Committee and Macro Group UK Committee were very thoughtful in this unprecedented situation and have given me the opportunity to participate at an international conference of my choice in 2021 in order to present my PhD research by reserving the travel allowance for me until next year. Hopefully, the current situation with COVID-19 will improve over the next months and research, networking and organization of conferences will return to their pre-pandemic normality!

Spyridon Varlas

School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham

2019 Ottewill International Travel Scholarship – Report

International Polymer Colloids Group 2019 Conference
Sentosa, Singapore, 23-28 June 2019

Andrea Lotierzo
Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick

Last June I attended the International Polymer Colloids Group (IPCG) 2019 Conference which was held between June 23rd and 28th in Sentosa Island (Singapore). The IPCG is a Gordon-style polymer colloids focused conference which is held every 2 years. In the polymer colloids field this is considered to be a reference conference to attend as it gathers research groups from all around the world, from both academia and industry. As my PhD is focused on the synthesis of polymeric colloidal dispersions, this conference was incredibly relevant in terms of the content of the talks and was key to widen my network in view of the end of my PhD a few months later.


The conference structure is as follows. Students can attend a three-day “pre-conference” meeting, the Graduate Research Seminar, during which they have a chance to discuss their projects, network with fellow scientists and be taught by experts of the field. This year we had master classes taught by Prof. Mohamed El-Aasser, Prof. Alexander van Herk, Prof. Joseph Keddie and Dr. Bernd Reck, who talked to us about synthesis of polymer colloids, film formation and some applications of polymer dispersions in industry. The seminar was also packed with plenty of social time and activities to stimulate connections between students. During the Graduate Research Seminar I had a chance to present my latest work regarding the use of crosslinked block-copolymer micelles, or nanogels, as polymeric stabilizers in emulsion polymerization for the synthesis of water-borne polymer dispersions of different morphologies (Janus, patchy and core-shells). My oral contribution was appreciated enough to be granted the prize of Best Student Speaker, which I am really proud of.


After this, the main IPCG conference started. The structure of a Gordon Conference consists each day of talks between breakfast and lunch, a free afternoon to explore, relax and network, and then talks again from late afternoon until after dinner. Among the others, particularly relevant talks to my own PhD project were those from Dr. Brian Hawkett and Prof. Michael Monteiro on controlled radical polymerization and temperature directed morphology transformation applied to the synthesis of functional colloidal architectures for different purposes. As best speaker during the graduate seminar symposium, I had the huge privilege to be able to present my project in a 30 min slot at the main conference too. Presenting my own work, while advertising the research group of my supervisor, Prof. Stefan Bon, in front of the vast majority of the international polymer community is one of the greatest achievements of my PhD. The talk animated some vivid discussion in the following poster session, with plenty of ideas on the explanation of certain results and how to continue with the project. This also came with some interesting potential career offers from both academia and industry which, as explained above, was key for me as my PhD was coming to an end.


Overall, what I take home from this conference is that polymer colloids are an evergreen fascinating world, with plenty of opportunities for innovative research. The welcoming international community and the tight connection with industry are perhaps what appeal to me the most. I left hoping to be able to attend the next IPCG conference, which will take place in 2021 in Kingston, Canada.

YRM 2018 – Report

By Shona O’Brien (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), one of the organisers of YRM 2018

At this year’s YRM we hosted over 150 attendees, representing 23 UK universities, 6 Irish universities, the USA, and South Africa. We had 29 oral presentations, including a post-doctoral session, all of an extremely high standard. We also had three plenary presentations from academics who shared their invaluable experiences of the ups and downs of a career in academia and inspired our young researchers. We were delighted to host 75 poster presentations of an exceptionally high standard.

Prizes for best presentation were provided by CÚRAM, the prize for best presentation in our post-doctoral session was provided by Merck, and there were also prizes for the best poster presentations. In all cases, the judges had an extremely difficult time in choosing the winners (for a full list of winners see our twitter @MacroYRM2018 #YRM2018).

We are especially grateful to all our sponsors (Macro Group UK, Particular Sciences, ThermoFisher, PSS, Intavis, NSP, Bruker, lennox, and Elementec) ; without their generosity, this event would not have been possible.


(Left to right) Presentation of prizes by Prof Andreas Heise. Best oral presentation winners: Mehri Behbehani (University of Sheffield), Alex Wright (University of Kent), James Wilson (University of Akron). Best poster presentation winners: Mthulisi Khuphe (University of Leeds), Deborah Beattie (University of Sheffield), Ben Graham (University of Warwick).

DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Josh Tibbetts (Bath University) who attended the Pure and Applied Chemistry Conference (PACCON) in Hat Yai, Thailand

In February 2018, I was lucky enough to travel to Thailand with other members of the Bull and James groups to attend the Pure and Applied Chemistry Conference (PACCON) in Hat Yai, Thailand. The theme of the conference was Chemistry Towards a Sustainable Future so it was a perfect opportunity to learn about the latest world leading research in sustainable chemistry and also to present my own PhD findings there.

Before attending PACCON, we attended Walailak University for a joint Postgraduate Symposium with the Harding group. This was a great chance to present our research to an international audience and also to meet and network with Thai students from the university. It was interesting to hear about the differences between Bath and Walailak. For example, it was inspiring to learn that the postgraduate chemistry research community was predominantly female in a traditionally male-dominated field. Something which I was less excited to learn about was the presence of the occasional poisonous snake on campus which made me feel bad for moaning about the ducks at Bath occasionally stealing my lunch.

Tibbetts 1

After that, we made the four hour journey by road to Hat Yai in the south of Thailand for the conference, stopping along the way at a rural Thai restaurant where we tried everything from traditional local fish dishes to the less traditional ‘Red Fanta’. Once we got to PACCON we saw a number of talks about new and exciting chemistry. A personal highlight for me was seeing Professor David Macmillan from Princeton University talk about his research in photoredox catalysis. It was also great to present my research during a very busy poster session. There was a lot of interest in mine and Maria O’s work and by the end we were worn out from answering the many questions which came our way during the two hour presentation. We then went to watch Maria W give her talk during the Natural products and biological chemistry session and she gave a very well-polished and interesting presentation!

After that, we made the four hour journey by road to Hat Yai in the south of Thailand for the conference, stopping along the way at a rural Thai restaurant where we tried everything from traditional local fish dishes to the less traditional ‘Red Fanta’. Once we got to PACCON we saw a number of talks about new and exciting chemistry. A personal highlight for me was seeing Professor David Macmillan from Princeton University talk about his research in photoredox catalysis. It was also great to present my research during a very busy poster session. There was a lot of interest in mine and Maria O’s work and by the end we were worn out from answering the many questions which came our way during the two hour presentation. We then went to watch Maria W give her talk during the Natural products and biological chemistry session and she gave a very well-polished and interesting presentation!

Tibbetts 2

There was some unusual entertainment at the conference dinner, including somebody playing several instruments while walking around the room and serenading individual members of the audience. There was also a giant game of rock, paper, scissors between everybody at the dinner and I’m still not quite sure how they worked out the winners of that. Last, but by no means least, we were lucky enough to be able to see Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand who was officially opening the conference and presenting the speakers with awards. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures but it was a once in a lifetime experience to be in the front row as a member of the Thai royal family entered the building!

Of course, it would be impossible to travel all the way to Thailand and not visit the other amazing places that it has to offer. Aside from the conference, we also visited some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, the Grand Palace in Bangkok and Wat Pho temple which has a giant reclining Buddha statue. As well as these various photo opportunities, we also were able to experience the famous nightlife of Phuket, and navigate the traffic and markets in Bangkok centre! Overall, this was an amazing opportunity to attend an international conference and present research abroad. I am thankful to both the CDT and MacroGroup UK for funding the trip.

MacroGroup UK Medal Winners Symposium 2017

By Prof Paul Topham and Dr Elena Patyukova (Aston University)

Supported by Lizi Rogers from the RKE, Professor Paul Topham and Dr Elena Patyukova of the Aston Institute of Materials Research (AIMR) hosted this year’s prestigious MacroGroup UK Medal Winners Symposium at Aston University on 10th November.MGUK 2017

All MacroGroup medal-winning speakers presented their work during the one-day meeting. In the morning, after a short introduction to the meeting, Prof Ian Hamley (2016 Macro Group UK Medal), presented his work on “Peptides and Peptide Conjugates: From Self-Assembly to Bioactivity”, followed by a talk given by Dr Theoni Georgiou (2016 Young Researchers Medal) on “Well-Defined Thermoresponsive Polymers”.

Winners of the 2015 and 2016 Jon Weaver PhD Prize,  Dr. Giovanna Sicilia  and Dr Charalampos Pappas gave their presentation in the afternoon. Professor Nikos Hadjichristidis (2016 Medal for Outstanding Achievement) closed the meeting with a presentation on “The Importance of Model Macromolecules in Polymer Physics and Polymer Industry”.



DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Sam Parkinson (University of Leeds) who attended the IUPAC World Polymer Congress (Macro 2018)

The IUPAC World polymer congress – Macro 2018 was held from 1st July-5th July at the Cairns Convention Centre. Over the 5 days there was a wide range of presentations, with up to 10 parallel sessions, covering all aspects of polymer science and engineering. The quality of both presentations and research presented was outstanding. Seeing presentations from such a broad spectrum of researchers, such as PhD students, post-docs, academic professors and industrial representatives was very enjoyable and informative. Particularly presentations by Prof. Brent Summerlin (University of Florida) and Prof. Cyrille Boyer (UNSW) on their respective research into polymer synthesis were highlights for me. This was my first time giving an oral presentation at a conference and my oral presentation “Evaluating continuous-flow platforms for rapid kinetic profiling of ultrafast RAFT polymerization” went well and I received plenty of positive feedback. Seeing that I could present my work at such a high-profile conference, full of experts in my field and be able to generate positive feedback greatly boosted my confidence as a researcher. It was also exciting to hear other groups research in polymer flow chemistry, one of my areas of interest. I would like to acknowledge my supervisor Dr. Nicholas Warren and Macro Group UK for providing my the opportunity to attend this conference.

DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Julia Rho (University of Warwick) who attended the 256th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, Boston, Massachusetts (USA)

The ACS National Meeting is a bi-annual conference showcasing chemical research from all over the world. This summer, the 256th ACS National Conference was held in Boston, and with the generous support from the Macro Group UK, I was lucky enough to attend and share my own research. The focus of this conference was ‘Nanoscience, Nanotechnology & Beyond’.

With the large venue, number of attendees estimated around 16,000+ and 30 different divisions; it was somewhat hard at times to choose which talks to join. The ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry (POLY) and the Division of Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering (PMSE) provided a great program of incredible talks by leaders in the field and exciting new on-going research. Outside of the talks it was a great opportunity to reconnect with past colleagues and make new friends in the fields I was interested in. Exciting symposia organised by the two divisions to celebrate Awardees’ contributions to the field, were filled with great speakers. Biomacromolecules/Macromolecules Young Investigator Award was given this year to Prof. Jeremiah Johnson and Prof. Matthew Gibson. We heard about the exciting work they were doing in their own group on polymer metal-organic cages (polyMOC) and cryo-preservants polymers respectively. Before their talks, we heard from friends and colleagues of the awardees, about work which has been mutual influenced. Talks included eminent chemists in the field of polymers including Prof. Craig Hawker and Prof. Karen Wooley.

New and upcoming fields were showcased throughout the week, in particular the tremendous progress made in ‘Vitrimers and Covalent Adaptable Networks’ by the groups of Chris Bowman and Flip Du Prez were of significant note.

On the Monday, I presented and shared my recent findings of my PhD, in the field of supramolecular cyclic peptide nanotubes. My work focuses on the controlling the dynamic nature of non-covalent self-assembling peptide-based structures.

I would like to thank the Macro Group UK and DH Richards Memorial Grant for giving me this wonderful opportunity to attend this exciting conference and share my research on an international stage.

ACS 2018

DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Rachel Atkinson who attended the IUPAC World Polymer Congress (Macro 2018), 1st-5th July 2018, Cairns, Australia.

With the support of the D H Richards Memorial Bursary, I was able to attend the IUPAC World Polymer Congress (known as Macro 2018) from the 1st-5th July 2018. This is a world-renowned polymer conference which takes place biennially, this year in Cairns, Australia. The 5-day conference covered a wide range of topics within polymer chemistry and attracted a large number of leading researchers from around the world.

This was the first international conference I had attended, and I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to give an oral presentation at such a large scale event. I presented my work, titled ‘Synthesis of Renewable, Hard-Soft Block Copolymers via the RAFT Polymerisation of Terpene (Meth)acrylates’ within the ‘Renewable Resources and Biopolymers’ theme. I was asked thought-provoking questions about my work and where I hope to take it, and received several useful suggestions from people during and after my talk.

I saw a huge number of talks that were very engaging and often useful for my own research. I particularly enjoyed seeing the other presentations from the renewable resources theme, as this is related to my current work. However, I also was very interested in research presented in other themes such as ‘Recent Developments in Polymer Design’, ‘Smart and Functional Polymers’ and ‘Innovation and Industry’ in which I got the chance to see cutting edge research that is going on around the world.

Overall, this experience has improved my confidence and I appreciated having the opportunity to promote my research. I also learnt a lot about the field in general, as well as gaining ideas for my own work, and building contacts who might be able to help me in the future. I would like to thank Macro Group UK for awarding me the D H Richards Memorial Bursary, which made this possible.

DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Marleen Wilde (University of Reading) who attended the 6th International Symposium of Biomedical Applications of Dendrimers (Biodendrimer 2018), 4th – 7th June, Urbino, Italy

With the generous contributions of the D.H. Richards Memorial Bursary I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Biodendrimer meeting in the beautiful world-heritage town of Urbino in Italy. This meeting is a specialised conference on the applications and advances in dendrimer nanomedicines, and current research was disseminated via posters and oral presentations. It was only a small conference with approximately 50-60 attendees, but this created a familiar and informal atmosphere that was very relaxing.

I had the opportunity to present my PhD research in oral talk (~25 min, Title: Biophysical studies of PAMAM interactions with membrane models) to the very knowledgeable audience and had a very helpful research discussion and positive feedback afterwards. The 45-min plenary lectures were given by numerous well-known experts in the field, and my personal highlights were the inspiring lectures of Prof Donald Tomalia (the “father” of the PAMAM dendrimers I am working with, Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc, NanoSynthons LLC) and Prof Barbara Klajnert-Maculewicz focussing on fluorescence phenomena in dendrimers (University of Lodz, Poland).

Wilde 2018

The coffee and lunch breaks offered good opportunities to network and informal discussions on recent research and research needs. Additionally I attended the official and a smaller unofficial ad hoc conference dinner, which was very enjoyable and useful for deeper networking. I connected well with a Portuguese group based in Lisbon, who were very interested in the techniques I use and like to start a collaboration maybe with an ERASMUS project student. Furthermore, some of the dendrimer chemists offered to supply me with their synthesised dendrimers for some comparative testing with the commercially available ones I use.

Overall, I think it was a very successful conference with interesting and inspiring talks and great opportunities to connect within the dendrimer research community. I am very grateful for the support of my supervisors Dr Francesca Greco and Dr Rebecca Green, as well as the financial support of the Macro Group and Reading University Graduate School Travel award, which enabled me to attend this meeting and present my research. I hope to be able to attend the next Biodendrimer conference and meet the researchers again.

DH Richards Travel Bursary Report 2018

By Dr Fiona Hatton who attended the Macro18 World Polymer Congress, Cairns, Australia

I recently attended and presented at the Macro18 World Polymer Congress held in Cairns, Australia 1st – 5th July 2018. Cairns is ideally situated in the north of Queensland, and we enjoyed some warm weather despite it being the middle of winter at the time. The conference covered all aspects of Polymer Science with a strong scientific programme comprising 10 parallel sessions ranging from Polymers in Biotechnology, Medicine and Health to Energy, Optics and Optoelectronics. There were 2 excellent plenary talks each day, with parallel invited and contributed talks as well as a poster session. I gave an oral presentation about my work on the “Synthesis of epoxy-functional diblock copolymer nanoparticles in aqueous solution via polymerisation-induced self-assembly”, which was well received. The social programme kicked off with a welcome reception on the first evening held on the terrace of the Cairns Convention Centre which included music from a DJ as well as drinks and nibbles. The conference dinner was held on the final evening of the meeting with a live performance from a local aboriginal group which was very entertaining. I found the conference particularly informative and stimulating as well as good for networking and I have been fortunate in forging 2 new collaborations from the meeting. I would like to thank the Macro Group UK for the DH Richards Travel Bursary which allowed me to attend this important conference.

Hatton 2018