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RSC researcher development funds report round 1

RSC research enablement and researcher development fund: 2020: first round report

During the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic, the Royal Society of Chemistry released £10k to institutions across the UK with the broad remit of using the money to enable chemistry researcher and develop chemical researchers. The Chemistry Department executive committee of the University of Warwick made the decision to grant £2k of these funds to the Postdoctoral Society of Chemistry (PSoC), for the purpose of running online training seminars for the Early Career Researcher (ECR) Cohort of the department. PSoC was charged with administering the rest of the funds and asked to put a call out to ECRs to apply for funding.

The initial call for funding was sent out as follows:

PSoC has been asked to facilitate the distribution of funds allocated to the Department of Chemistry by the RSC, to a total of £8000. These funds are intended "for researcher enablement and researcher development in the chemical sciences in 2020". We would like to invite applications from PhD students, Research Assistants, Postdoctoral Research Associates and other Early Career Researchers, and will ensure that all will have an equal opportunity to receive some funding.

Below are some suggestions for which to apply for funding (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Home office equipment to facilitate continued research activities from home – in particular in those instances where personal health is at risk from substandard office equipment.
  • Attending online workshops/webinars/courses aimed at personal and career development
  • Software required to work from home
  • Online conference fees – particularly those aimed at an early career audience
  • Commuting-related costs for researchers wishing to avoid public transport (e.g. bike helmets)

Conversely, the following are examples of what will not be funded (again, this should not be considered an exhaustive list):

  • Researcher salaries or stipends
  • Consumables for experiments
  • Publication costs

No application will be too small – we actively encourage applications for small sums as we wish to distribute these funds as widely as possible to aid as many researchers as possible.

A deadline was given of 30th June 2020.

PSoC received a total of 34 applications in the first instance. Of these, two were immediately identified as having better funding sources and PSoC aided those applicants in finding and applying that funding.

Of the remaining 32, all applications were initially considered by the PSoC committee and then sent to the HoD for approval. Upon conversation with the HoD, it was revealed that further information would be needed for those who required funds for commuting related costs: that the extra costs of commuting incurred due to the pandemic are not outweighed by savings made by not taking public transport. PSoC was also informed at this point that funds could not be spent on bicycles or on any regular commuting costs for staff. Several avenues were followed by PSoC to attempt to find a solution to this problem, including looking into the purchase of a bike fleet for the department, but due to financial regulations or pre-existing university schemes, unfortunately none were successful.

Applicants from whom further justification was required as laid out above were contacted and given the option to provide this justification or withdraw their application. Apart from those cases already explained above, two applications were rejected as they involved expensive training courses for individual applicants. While no cap was put on the funding application, it was made clear that the intention was to spread the funds as widely as possible, and both PSoC and the HoD felt that these two applications did not present good value for money for this particular funding call, or its purpose of enabling research or developing researchers.

In total, 20 applications were accepted either in part or in full, with a total spending of £4602 (including the funds given directly to PSoC), 6 were withdrawn and 6 were not approved. A second call will go out for the remaining £5398 with a better understanding of the financial limitations of applying this funding, and once the new cohort of PhD students and PDRA researchers has begun in October, in order to give them a chance to apply.

A complete rundown of the applications and decisions is given in the table below:







bike + sending fees



Not approved


Portable laptop table


I am currently studying the mechanistic action of redox-active species and, due to the pandemic, my work is increasingly relying on computational calculations and performing data analysis from home rather than the office. This purchase will enable a more comfortable 'working from home' environment as I am using two laptops and various set ups when working.



1 year RSC Associate Membership


This will allow me to access RSC resources, especially as I am beginning to think about my next steps. It will also allow me to apply to become a registered scientist (RSci).



Portable External Hard Drive


My project involves synthesis of metallohelices which show potent antimicrobial activities in various bacteria - alkyne derivatives of these compounds can be used in fluorescent “click” labelling studies with Alexa Fluor® azides. I would be using my purchase to aid in transferring and storing many gigabytes of large raw data files and high quality images from these bacterial sub-cellular compound localisation studies, considerably reducing expense and impracticality of using many USB sticks.



SnapGene software


My Ph.D. work involves regular designing of different constructs (primers and plasmid vectors) for protein expression, cloning, and mutagenesis. The trial version of the SnapGene software doesn't include the complete features that are required for proper designing. Getting the subscription will greatly facilitate my Ph.D. work.



Desk chair; Monitor; Light set for bike

330 (310 approved)

I am working on the recognition of polymeric defects through ultra-high resolution scanning tunnelling microscopy images. The images need to be fitted by hand with molecular models, and an accurate analysis is key, so a comfortable chair and a good screen will make the process absolutely easier.

Partially approved (withdrawal of commuting expenses)


Decathlon bike



Not approved


Monitor arm


I’m currently undertaking a PhD in analytical science as the MAS CDT at Warwick, with my research focused on using Fourier transform ion cyclotron mass spectrometry (FTICR MS) for analysis of oxidised base oils, with other interests in building visualisation and analysis tools for complex mixtures data. The purchase for a monitor arm will allow for a more ergonomic seating posture while working, and improve productivity.



10 inch surface tablet


I travel from Leicester and having to manage a small team whilst attending a number of online meeting with my collaborators/colleagues I cannot just 'go home' for a meeting, also I need to come in to complete lab work, so if I have this I can come in and have a meeting in a remote place nearby without going home and not wasting a day of experiments, hence the small size is portable unlike my current old laptop which can barely cope with running meetings on teams. Furthermore, I will be undertaking organic tutorials and these will be done online now rather then face to face, this device is touchscreen and I can use a stylus to draw mechanisms etc which I cannot currently do at all.



Helmet and bike vest





Adjustable height and angle foot rest


I am working on developing boron doped diamond based medical sensors towards commercialisation, whilst much of this project is laboratory based I collect large quantities of data for analysis, and also keep regular contact with collaborators both at the local hospital and in industry. Given the current situation I must now do a lot of this from home. The purchasing of a foot rest will enable me to sit at my improvised desk for the long periods required to do my work without causing myself further damage and discomfort.



Bike helmet and jacket. Office chair

269 (150 approved)

I teach Undergraduate organic chemistry and research new methods of catalysis for the synthesis of small organic molecules of potential interest in pharmaceutical, agrochemical and materials applications. I used the funding to buy a new office desk chair for home working. This will enable me to write lectures and grant applications from home whilst not putting my back, or other joints, under any undue stress.

Partially Approved (commuting costs not approved)


office chair and adjustable laptop stand riser


I am currently writing a book chapter on Glycopolymer Functionalised Nanoparticles and Their Applications and as a guest editor am establishing a new Special Issue on 'Porous Polymer Scaffolds' for the open access journal Polymers (MDPI, ISSN 2073-4360, IF 3.426). While working from home on my laptop using ordinary chairs during the pandemic, I have sustained neck and shoulder pain, hence my application.



Foot rest, chair mat, monitor wall mount


The office hardware required to purchase will help me to perform research in the following areas: screening of carboxylic acids from crude oil seawater system under solar irradiation and Barium ion adduct mass spectrometry (environmental project), An abundance of chemical entities in bio-oils: revealing reactive isomers in complex mixtures (bio-oil project, alternative fuels) and IRMPD/UVPD dissociation of asphaltenes of crude oils (crude oil analysis).





My project is looking at modelling functionalised SAMs using Finite Element modelling for faradic and non-faradic functionalities based on some early analytical work by one of my supervisors from my master's mini project. Hopefully by understanding how fixing a redox group to a surface influences the current-voltage behaviour vs being free in solution we can apply this to more complex redox system. This should help us understand and guide future experimental work. Due to the current situation, my PhD project has adapted to being more heavily computationally based, and I am spending a lot of time at my desk. At the moment I am working on my laptop which means working with bad ergonomics including squinting and being hunched over the screen. A separate monitor would help improve the ergonomics of my working environment especially as I am anticipating continuing to work from home for a reasonable length of time.



Storage hard drives


Funding/assistance if required to purchase 2 data storage hard disk to keep the processed data safe and to have a quick access to the data generated via computational works within my group. Along with his we also need to work on several mass-spec, NMR data files. Each files are above 1 GB size and have many files to access at the same time. As I have no access to this equipment I am unable to work efficiently and effectively from home environment during this COVID 19 circumstances. I kindly request to provide funding for this.



Bike lock





Bike light





AEBIN Photochemistry School 2020 registration


This is a good opportunity to learn about a key area of science, relevant to my project, at the start of my PhD



surface-pen and keyboard


I’m currently working in collaboration with Infineum to improve the performance of the lubricant oil. With the purchase of the keyboard and pen, my office working environment would be more flexible and portable.



Keyboard and mouse


The title of my PhD project is “Quantum Simulation of Light-Induced Chemistry and Electronic Friction Effects at Metal Surfaces”, which is purely theoretical work. To carry out simulations at these level of theory and for systems of this calibre involves significant computational time which is why calculations are sent to computing facilities across the country. This can all be controlled by an ordinary laptop or computer. Additionally, programming plays an important role in my project to develop new functionality and improve performance to allow bigger systems to be studied. Under normal circumstances I primarily work on the office workstation, but due to home-working I am heavily using my laptop, the keyboard on which has been malfunctioning and the touch pad is rather uncomfortable for extended use. A wireless keyboard and mouse will allow more ergonomic home working and will reduce the time I spend correcting errors from the keyboard.



Leadership principles online course


Leadership and communication are soft skills that are valuable assets for a scientist’s career development. Scientists who are equipped with these skills can help research organizations by driving projects into completion more effectively, establishing a vision, communicating confidently their research and fostering innovation and collaboration.

This RSC funding will enable me to enroll on a Leadership principles online course that will be beneficial for my personal development and for my future career prospects. This training aims to develop tools such as building self-efficacy, interpersonal skills and resilience that will help me further evolve as a scientist.

Not approved


MBA Essentials online certificate course


In the contemporary career environment of scientists, business understanding is essential for excelling in any sector. I became interested in enrolling in a business-related course when I started my collaborations with industry during my PhD research. The conversations I had with managers helped me realise the importance of business and finance knowledge in the modern world. The MBA Essentials online certificate course from the LSE will provide me with crucial management skills and technical knowledge of organisations.

Throughout my scientific research, I have gained valuable personal and interpersonal skills by liaising with academic and industrial teams and developed the ability to collaborate. My role as demonstrator also enhanced my time management and leadership skills and helped me to be methodical, key abilities to succeed in a part-time course during a PhD.

This fund will be beneficial for my personal development and future career prospects.

Not approved


Waterproof trousers





Bike mudguards








Not approved





Not approved


Back support and laptop rest


[personal information redacted] Due to the lockdown and the fact that I am starting to write up my thesis, I am using my laptop more frequently and for longer periods. Unfortunately I have no office chair in my flat and am finding the use of the hardback dining table chairs painful for my lower back, hence this application for a back support that can be added over the existing chair. I also find that typing at the angle my laptop is sat at worsens my wrists, hence the application for an ergonomic laptop rest below.








Tablet device


In the coming academic year all lectures will be delivered online at the University of Warwick in order to comply with social distancing rules. In order to support my teaching from home I need to purchase a tablet device. This is in particular important for teaching reactions mechanisms that cannot simply be taught using PowerPoint. Reaction mechanisms are very important in the course I teach, CH161 - Introduction to Organic Chemistry. In the current academic year this course was delivered to 240 1st year undergraduate students.



Safety helmet


Due to the Covid situation I had to buy a bike, an helmet, a locker, bike lights, an extra lock cable to avoid my bike getting stolen at uni and where I live, plus all the tools and chain lubes to fix the bike for a total cost of more than £200. The final cost is more than 5 monthly bus tickets. It has been a significant extra cost especially because these purchases had to be made more or less at the same time due to the short notice about the university re-opening and this has affected my finances.



Bike, helmet, bike lock, bike lights

162 (43.2 approved)

My main area of research is polymeric materials to be used as friction modifiers in oil additives. I am sponsored by a company called Infineum. I would like to purchase a secondhand bike to commute from my flat in Earsldon to University to avoid public transport. This is a list of essential items I will need and links to the moderately priced items I have chosen. It is an extra cost that is more than my monthly bus pass that I would have purchased (see pdf).

Partially approved (some commuting costs not approved/withdrawn)