Young Polymer Scientist a Real Star

University of Melbourne student Luke Connal has been awarded the RACI Polymer Division’s 2004 O’Donnell Young Scientist Prize.

The prize is awarded to one Australian each year. It is offered as a traveling scholarship and encouragement award to young polymer scientists allowing the recipient the opportunity to increase their profile in the national and international polymer community.

Mr Connal was awarded the O'Donnell Prize on the merit of his PhD work. His research focuses on investigating methods for the formation of thin porous polymer films.

He says, "I synthesize star shaped polymers of dimensions in the tens of nanometers. I then use these star polymers to make unique polymer membranes with highly ordered porous structures."

"These polymer films or membranes can be used in many high technology applications, one being in selectively permeable separation membranes which could be used in dialysis applications such as removing impurities from human blood. These types of films could also be used in areas such as photonics (manipulation of light) because of the order and size of the pores."

Mr Connal will travel to the United States for approximately three months where he will gain further understanding of his thesis topic from experts in the field. He will spend six weeks at the University of California working with Professor Craig Hawker who is a world leader in the synthesis of dendrimers for film forming applications.

In Santa Barbara he will attend a specialist training course on the theory and application of Multi Angle Laser Light Scattering and will learn the full capabilities of the instruments used in this study.

Moving to North Carolina State University he will spend another six weeks working with Professor Richard Spontak who is a world leader in the field of multifunctional block copolymers.

He will complete his trip by giving a presentation at the 230th American Chemical Society National Meeting which will host 15,000 chemists from America and the world in Washington DC.

Mr Connal will spend a total of three months overseas. He says, "It is a really exciting time, I am looking forward to presenting my work in an international conference. The opportunity to work with some world class researches will also be great for my PhD and my career."

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