Positive reaction

Pengju Ji in the laboratory

Wed, 04 May 2011 09:57:00 BST

AFTER an interview conducted at a distance of 5,000 miles, Chinese scientist Pengju Ji arrived at the University of Huddersfield to play a key role in developing an industrial process that would save money and the environment by finding an alternative to the use of solvents.

Now he has left for China again, having been awarded not only his PhD degree but the coveted title of Research Student of the Year.

It was just over three years ago that the University of Huddersfield’s chemical research group IPOS (Innovative Physical Organic Solutions) placed an internet advertisement for a PhD student to take part in a project that would look into the use of ammonia as a solvent in the process of making chemical compounds.

Pengju Ji, born near Beijing and working as a research assistant at Tianjin University, applied for the post and following a long-distance telephone interview to make sure he was the right candidate, he was offered the position.

He was to collaborate on research into the use of ammonia as solvent in the process of making chemical compounds.  Conventional solvents are often toxic and have to be burned off at the end of the process.  This is costly and environmentally damaging.

"He got all the equipment together and he has done some fantastic work in understanding how chemical reactions occur in liquid ammonia," said his co-supervisor Professor Mike Page, who is the head of IPOS.

As a result of his work, Pengju Ji was awarded his PhD and the achievement was capped with the Research Student of the Year prize, which he received from Professor Andrew Ball, the University of Huddersfield’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise.

But despite setting off on his homeward journey shortly after scooping the award at the University’s 2011 Research Festival, Pengju Ji, aged 33, will be sure to keep up the Huddersfield connection.  He will continue to collaborate with his PhD supervisors, Professors Mike Page and John Atherton, on the publication of research findings.  And he will spread the word about the University of Huddersfield in China.

"I learned such a lot from my supervisors," said Pengju, "and I also enjoyed the local culture and the company of fellow students.  Huddersfield is such a good, friendly town and the University staff are very supportive."


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