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Inspiring women: Dana Thompson, PhD student and member of the Faraday Institution ReLib project

Dana Thompson, PhD student and member of the Faraday Institution ReLib project

“My chemistry teacher's lessons were always different from the other lessons I took because there was always a relaxed atmosphere in terms of asking questions (i.e. no such thing as a stupid question). This allowed me to be more curious and ask questions without fear. The lessons were also very interactive and my teacher used different techniques to help us revise (never one size fits all).

University was great, I did four years. In my third year I got to go to the University of Florida. And it was an amazing experience.

I’m just at the beginning of my PHD, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m at the University of Leicester. I’m studying batteries from electric vehicles and how we can recycle them, working as part of a really big team to solve real world problems, and knowing that my research could have an impact on society today. The thing that excites me the most about my research, is probably the variety, because I can spend one day in the chemistry lab, another day in engineering. It has lots of training opportunities.

Petrol and diesel cars contribute to a lot of pollution, emitting toxic gases. Which leads to climate change and global warming. And the key to this problem is electrification of transport.

In 2017, there were around 3 million electric vehicles and by 2030 it’s estimated there’s going to be 125 million. At the moment we don’t have the facilities to recycle them. They either go to storage or in a landfill, which is really bad. We need to be able to reuse these materials and get as much out of them as we can at the end of life, so we don’t end up contributing to a bigger problem with pollution. Ideally we’d want to have a closed loop recycling scheme. So anything that comes from electric vehicles can be recycled and put straight back into the electric vehicle market. We have a lot of scientists, coming together through the Faraday Institution, to build those next generation batteries and a recycling facility within the UK.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the battery industry. And if you’re remotely interested in the energy sector I’d say go for it. Because it is a growing field and we need as many people as we can get. And who knows, the next generation could be the answer to the problems we’re facing today.

Since starting my PhD, I've only just realised how much of a gender imbalance there is in science. I think that it's important to know that science is for everyone and if it's something you are interested in then don't be afraid to pursue it. Days like the International Day of Women and Girls in Science can break the stigma and celebrate women in science.

One of my role models is Lady Gaga. Perhaps not a conventional science-related person, but someone who promotes being yourself and being proud of who you are, which is something I believe is really important. Another one is the women's England football team as they have overcome hurdles to promote women's football, making it become more mainstream in what would usually be a male-dominated field.”

More information

The Faraday Institution was created by UK Research and Innovation’s Faraday Battery Challenge, part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. The Faraday Institution is based in the Harwell Science and Innovation campus, and aims to speed up research into battery technologies.

The aim of the Faraday Institution’s ReLiB project is to establish the technological, economic and legal infrastructure to make the recycling of close to 100% of the materials contained in lithium ion batteries from the automotive sector possible.