“The very best research efforts – and the researchers who carry them out – combine two important activities; critical thinking, and creativity.”
This was the premise behind the recent EPSRC run course entitled Student Futures: Sustainability at the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering interface. As mentioned in a previous news article, Lisa was selected as one of the 25 EPSRC-funded PhD students to take part in this years’ Student Futures event. Places on the course were competetive, with prospective delegates submitting written or video applications to be considered.
The course, which ran from 25–28th June in Nottingham, was only the second of its kind and was based around creative problem solving. The main focus of the event was on addressing key issues in sustainability surrounding chemistry and chemical engineering, and so was well matched to Lisa’s research interests.
The residential course, run in collaboration with Knowinnovation, covered many aspects of the problem solving process such as delaying judgement and how to apply creative thinking to develop truly novel ideas. After being able to learn and practice techniques for creative problem solving over the first few days, they were then given the opportunity to pitch their ideas in the style of a mini-sandpit; a skill which may prove invaluable in the future, as sandpits are used regularly by the EPSRC to distribute funding to a mix of people who come up with innovative solutions to existing problems. Small groups then applied these skills to challenges in sustainability.
Some examples of ideas that were pitched at the mini-sandpit included:
- The separation and conversion of waste fats from sewers and restaurants into chemical feed stocks;
- 3D printing of food products in the home.
The students felt they got a lot out of the course. Lisa said “It’s really great that the EPSRC run courses such as this. I’m looking forward to applying the tools and techniques to my research. ”
Many participants also felt that meeting their peers who are working in similar fields was a particularly valuable part of the course, as verified by Zella King (AIM Innovation Fellow) who explained the importance of social networks for creativity.