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Scholarship Spotlight: James Meade Scholar Jonathon Clark on Inorganic Chemistry and Magnetism

Following the completion of his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at New College, Jonathon was awarded the James Meade Scholarship, which will fully fund his DPhil. Explaining how the scholarship will support his studies, he says:

“The James Meade Scholarship has given me complete freedom to explore what I find most interesting. As the funding is not tied to industry or a grant on a specific topic, I am not limited in what I can explore with my research which I really enjoy. This should allow me to ask more general and probing questions as well as being able to pursue the discoveries which are most promising to chemistry and humanity instead of those which directly benefit industry. The scholarship has also enabled me to pursue a multidisciplinary approach to my research and be part of two groups. Being awarded such a prestigious scholarship was very humbling and has really helped me take the first step at establishing myself at the start of my DPhil.”

Jonathon became interested in Chemistry due to his love for problem solving and a desire to understand the world around him on a deeper level. He shares:

“I was drawn to chemistry over other sciences I think due to the mix of practical and theoretical skills. I’m also very interested in climate change and research in chemistry is at the forefront of tackling the biggest issues we face today – whether it be new battery technologies to sustain a world without fossil fuel engines, new catalysts to improve energy efficiency or new methods of recycling or carbon capture.”

Jonathon’s research interests lie in magnetism and its effects on the chemistry of molecules. He says:

“I really enjoyed studying the interaction between light, magnetism, and metals in my undergraduate degree. I was particularly interested in how the intrinsic magnetic property of certain elements could lead to changes in their reactivity depending on their orientation in a magnetic field. The James Meade Scholarship has enabled to study these topics in detail (which I would not be able to otherwise) focussing on how the magnetic properties of Lanthanide elements (the elements at the bottom of the periodic table) can interact with external magnetic fields and light. Lanthanide elements are already extensively used in medicine such as in MRI contrast agents or molecular probes for modelling cancer. Helping to understand the interaction between two Lanthanide elements could help to build much more effective probes in the future for MRI or imaging cancer. Understanding the interaction between Lanthanide elements and external magnetic fields could be instrumental in building molecular compasses in the future.”

Jonathon spends most of his research time in the lab balancing three tasks: making new compounds; measuring compounds using light; and modelling systems computationally.

Jonathon says of his future aspirations:

“I love what I do, and I want to make the most of the opportunities I have here. In terms of my research, I’m working towards understanding the interactions between two magnetic centres and how this can improve design of molecules for new purposes. This could include tuning molecules to react differently when in a magnetic field; generating better MRI contrast agents or synthesising molecular probes for imaging cancer cells. It’s a bit early to tell where my project is going exactly but I love the freedom chemistry and, more importantly, the funding from Oriel College, gives me to pursue what interests me.”

Jonathon’s advice for someone who wishes to study at the University of Oxford is to take the chance and apply! He says: “Oxford is a lovely city to live in (I chose to stay on for another 4 years!) and the university has some of the best facilities in the world. Also, the people at Oxford are super friendly and some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet! Most people (including myself) can be a bit unsure of what Oxford and, more specifically, the people here are like before applying. Personally, I’ve found it a super accepting environment and it has really helped me thrive outside of work. Whilst there are still major issues in terms of access, it has noticeably got a lot better in the four years I’ve been here, and I really hope (and think) it will continue to improve.” 

The James Meade Scholarship, named after Orielensis and Nobel Prize winning economist James Meade, provides full tuition fees and living expenses for a UK DPhil candidate in any subject at Oriel College. This scholarship was made possible thanks to the generosity of an Orielensis and his wife, who wanted to provide an opportunity for a talented postgraduate to achieve their academic potential.

See Jonathon’s Profile