Taniela Lolohea is studying a PhD at the School of Chemical Sciences.
"Chemistry suits me because I have an observation and explanation type mentality. I've always seen research as a natural way to express my creativity.
"I use an atmospheric plasma jet printer to modify surfaces so that they can exhibit desirable properties. I have specific interests in tailoring surfaces to increase their hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity. A lot of the functions that surfaces exhibit come from the surface interface, which is where my modifications take effect.
"I’m usually always at my instrument doing experiments – it’s called an atmospheric plasma jet printer – for fixing hardware and software issues. Once I do some experiments, I usually head over to some characterisation instruments and try to analyse the modifications that occurred both physically and chemically.
"The ability to collaborate and work with other research groups and companies is my favourite part. The process of solving a problem with my research is definitely the best part.
"During my study, the way my personal development has developed in terms of my 'soft skills' surprised me. Being able to articulate my research has greatly improved. It's amazing to be able to communicate my science to a range of demographics such as children, adults with no science background, as well as other scientists and engineers.
"I’m naturally a 'go with the flow' kind of guy, so I typically see challenges or setbacks as a chance to take a new route, or to collaborate and get different perspectives. My supervisors are really good at giving me advice on how to focus the research and stay independent.
I hope I will be able to incorporate plasma modifications into all areas of materials chemistry and beyond; it’s a rapidly growing field in the northern hemisphere in countries like Japan, America and Germany, but very little application is done in the southern hemisphere.
"I collaborate with a few physicists, and other material chemistry groups and it’s really interesting to get their perceptions on materials and how they think. Being able to tap into different viewpoints, and really just throwing ideas around, benefits everyone. I think it’s amazing what you can do when you collaborate, being able to work in a team is something that comes more naturally to me too.
"I really like the ability to be able to cross into other research groups, and feel comfortable to throw ideas openly without fear of judgement.
"One piece of advice I would give to up-and-coming researchers is, I would definitely say, don't let minor setbacks discourage you from major comebacks. Embrace being uncomfortable.
"I'm a teaching assistant at the School of Chemical Sciences and I enjoy being able to interact with the undergraduates, and seeing the 'light' turn on when they join what they have learned in lectures to what they physically do in labs – this is my favourite part."
Taniela's supervisor is Associate Professor Duncan McGillivray, at the School of Chemical Sciences.