Spotlight: Dr Sharon Ingram, Chemistry Clinic Manager, University of Strathclyde


Tell us a fun fact about yourself.


I lived in France for year as part of my undergraduate degree – the French pastries were delicious!


Tell us about your career journey so far.


I really enjoyed science at school, and I was eager to learn more at University– but I was not sure what science to study in particular. I felt the best and most interesting course for me was Chemistry and at the University of Strathclyde. I was particularly excited about the opportunity for a year long industrial placement in the fourth year. I loved my work experience in Cambridge and as well as developing my science and professional skills, I also developed my passion for ‘materials chemistry’ which I still work on to this day.


What was your favourite subject in school and why?


I really enjoyed science and maths classes at school, I found them all really interesting. Chemistry was my favourite and I loved learning about chemical reactions and doing experiments. My teachers really inspired me and brought the topics alive, and I loved understanding more about properties and reactions of matter.


What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?


Chemistry is very important to understand formulations and how to make them better. We also use maths to recognise how factors such as temperature can change experiments and vary the results. It is also very important to be curious, organised, accurate and resilient. Experiments do not always go as expected, and it is vital to be able to reflect on the outcomes and try again.

What is your favourite thing about your job?


I love working with inventors and students. It is so rewarding when we can help an inventor bring their ideas to life. I also love seeing how Chemistry can help real life situations – such as food, solar panels and sports gear. I also love working with students, watching them develop their skills, passion for science and confidence.


What is a normal day in your role like?


I regularly speak with inventors and companies to help them solve chemistry based problems and create new products. I work with other people at the University and our students to create new formulations.

On a daily basis we do experiments and stay curious – what do the results mean, and what could we try next or recommend to the inventor? At the end of the project these results are included in a report, and we also meet with the Company and give a presentation.

We also promote our love of science through engagements with primary and secondary school pupils – a highlight!


And what does your job title mean?


I run the Chemistry Clinic at the University of Strathclyde. We help inventors create new formulations and entrepreneurs make their products the best they can be. Students work on these real life projects - in the lab and writing reports.Their year of work experience with us is part of their Masters Degree and they are learning, and helping clients at the same time.


Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?


We often test and experiment with materials to see how they behave in different conditions – like whether you stored your chocolate in a dark cupboard or warm windowsill. Why not try the ‘skittles experiment’ – put a ring of ten skittle on two different plates. Pour cold water on one plate, and warm water on the other – what differences do you observe?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FHbbc8v1Cs