Where are you now? (Day 19)

MembraneI’m sure, like me, you meet and work with a great deal of people. But time never stands still and rarely do people. However, writing my blog over these first few weeks has made me realise the power of social media to connect and re-connect with people.

It’s also a chance to find out how organisations like IChemE have influenced the life and careers of its members, and many other people we try to help.

Iwan Roberts

Iwan Roberts – Ashok Kumar Fellow 2011

So it was great to hear this week from the very first recipient of the Ashok Kumar Fellowship, Iwan Roberts.

The Fellowship was established in 2010/11 following the death of Ashok Kumar – a chemical engineer and member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South in the North East of England. The Fellowship is sponsored by IChemE and NEPIC.

As part of his Fellowship, Iwan spent three months at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in 2011. During his time there he was responsible for producing a report – called a POST note – about Low Carbon Technologies for Energy-Intensive Industries.

The whole experience has proved to have been a valuable period in his early career development.

Reflecting on his Fellowship, Iwan said: “POST provides non-biased scientific briefing notes to both Houses of Parliament to inform debate. Its full time staff are supported by a rolling cohort of Fellows sponsored by the various learned societies.

“It was a very challenging time and I remember being invited to speak on behalf of IChemE at a Parliament event with a few hundred people in the audience! Not only was I the only speaker without a doctorate, but I was pretty much the only one who was not a Professor, OBE, Sir etc.

“It was daunting to say the least, but it was also amazing how interested and nice everyone was to me because I was a young person without any ‘letters’.

“POST is such a fascinating place to work I would strongly encourage anyone thinking of applying to do so. It also provided a nice way to split up the PhD and gain a bit of perspective outside the lab.”

Since 2011, Iwan has co-founded a biotherapeutic purification company called Puridify, which is now well established and already expanding.

And he attributes some of his current success at Puridify down to the Ashok Kumar Fellowship. He said: “I don’t think it’s an overstatement it say I’ve found it really helpful in pretty much everything I’ve done since.

“The main two things were confidence and communication. The briefing topic I had to work on was focused on ‘low carbon technologies’ something I knew nothing about initially. I then had three months to not only understand this complex science but also the global political and regulatory background.

“Somehow, I had to boil this down to its key parts to describe in four pages to a layperson. The only way to do this was to ‘crowd source’ the information first hand from experts in the area which meant having the confidence to pick up the phone, or send the email and often meeting in person, people who were far more experienced then me.”

And it sounds like Iwan has an even busier and challenging time ahead following a significant investment in Puridify by venture capitalists and a number of TSB supported collaborations with big pharma and CMOs. He says: “My whole focus now is delivering on these collaborations and growing the team with biopharma engineers to develop our products. It’s great fun, but a lot of hard work.”

I think we can safely say we’ll be hearing from Iwan again!

So, back to my first question – where are you now…and how has chemical engineering changed your life?

Or, more importantly, how are you helping to change the lives of others with your chemical engineering? It would good to hear from you and share your story and achievements on my blog.

Thanks for reading.