UCL News


UCL in the News: Born chemist

19 June 2008

Yfke Hager, 'Chemistry World' It was perhaps inevitable that Katherine Holt [UCL Chemistry] would become a chemist.

Her parents are both chemistry teachers, and she spent her childhood surrounded by chemistry books. Now, the young researcher hopes to inspire enthusiasm in the next generation of chemistry students herself.

As a child, Holt enjoyed spending time with her father in his school laboratory. "I watched him dip dirty pennies into acid to make them shiny, and thought it would be cool to work in a lab," she recalls. …

During her fourth year at Oxford … surface scientist John Foord's research on thin diamond films created by chemical vapour deposition caught her imagination. "It seems a romantic notion, working on diamonds," Holt laughs, "but the research has so many applications, which really appealed to me." …

Exploring applications such as electrochemical wastewater treatment and trace metal detection taught her to value her chosen field. "As an undergraduate I found electrochemistry boring. But as the focus of a research career, it's brilliant," Holt enthuses. "Electrochemistry is everywhere."

Holt was awarded a two-year Centenary Ramsay Fellowship and returned to the UK. Daren Caruana, an electrochemistry lecturer at UCL, supported her application and offered her laboratory space. In 2006, she was awarded a five-year Advanced Research Fellowship from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council); a lectureship in physical chemistry at UCL followed a year later.

Holt now pursues several major avenues of research. She investigates respiratory chain function in mitochondria; collaborates with inorganic chemist Graeme Hogarth to determine the electrochemical properties of hydrogenase biomimetics; and explores the redox properties of undoped diamond nanoparticles with Caruana. …

"Now that I have a permanent position, I hope to expand my research interests even more," Holt says. "I love to explore new research areas through collaborations." Some of the best projects Holt has worked on have happened by accident - simply by meeting the right person at the right time. "I hope to do more of the same in future," she says. …