UCL News


Seven questions with Enya Gomes Clynch

15 May 2018

This week we speak to Enya Gomes Clynch, asecond year Biochemical Engineering student.

Enya Gomes Clynch Enya's research on using spent coffee grounds as a renewable energy source earned her the opportunity to present it to policy makers at the Houses of Parliament.

1. Why are you interested in biochemical engineering and what do you plan to do in the future?

I have always been fascinated by the way we can use knowledge obtained from biochemistry to solve current world problems varying from human to environmental health. Biochemical engineering focuses in doing this is the most environmentally and economically sustainable way. It is through my studies that I have come to understand that whilst a lot of current proposed solutions work well in theory, a lot of the time they are not feasible in practise due to increased costs compared to the status quo. It is for this reason that more research needs to be done in order to optimise these processes so that they are able to compete with current solutions and do well in paving the way to a more sustainable future.

With this in mind, a group of us decided to evaluate the feasibility of using spent coffee grounds to make bioethanol in order to help meet 2020 renewable energy demands. Over half of spent coffee ground's composition is carbohydrates, 80% of which can be converted into bioethanol, one of the most popular alternative forms of vehicle fuel. Utilising the coffee waste from London alone would prevent disposal via landfill and save 340,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, whilst also creating a sustainable source of energy, decreasing the UK's current reliance on primary fossil fuels. We found that this could power 6% of UK small cars for a whole year.

As well as being environmentally sustainable, it is also economically viable with E10 (a petrol-ethanol blend) retail prices being able to compete with current fuels. Coffee consumption is growing year on year so there will always be a supply without further contribution to land resources.

This project in particular has furthered my interest in sustainable energy sources, as a biochemical engineer I know that there is a lot more that can be done in this field alone therefore am excited to see where this takes me in the future.

2. What is the most interesting thing you've done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

We presented our research above within our department and our lecturer recommended we enter it into the Posters in Parliament competition. As part of the annual British Conference of Undergraduate Research, 'Posters in Parliament' brings together around 40 students from across the UK to present their work to policymakers and the public at Westminster.

It was amazing to get this opportunity. Presenting the research to people from outside of our department was really challenging! Having to explain this to people from different backgrounds with differing understandings really helped us develop our skills in communicating our research and now we're much more confident in doing so.

We were approached at the event by an Energy Adviser in in Parliament who has since supported us and even wrote a letter of recommendation for a grant we recently applied for! It's truly been a fantastic experience and pushed us to continue our research. Watch out for the applications opening in late autumn and apply, it's definitely worth it.

3. Have you discovered any 'hidden gems' during your time at UCL?

The Wellcome Collection, it's on our doorstep! I always forget about it due to its proximity however when I'm in need of a break from uni work and just want to clear my mind, whilst also grabbing a bit of culture at the same time, it's there. The coffee is great too.

4. Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London

1. Alexandra Palace. From gigs to food festivals to ice skating to firework displays. All with great views of London and picturesque gardens, what more could you want?

2. Sky Garden, it's free! This alone means you have more money to splash out on their creative cocktails, need I say more?

3. Primrose Hill, can you tell I'm a sucker for a good London skyline?

5. If you were Provost for the day, what one thing would you do?

UCL has fantastic initiatives and support for mental health and there is always more that can be done, particularly with awareness. Mental health can severely impact on uni life, especially when it comes to group work. Letting your team members down should be the last thing on your mind when you're not well, and sometimes the whole idea of explaining to a group of people the reason you're not able to contribute as much can be extremely daunting. An initiative to bring awareness to these types of situations and guidance on what to do would really help with this problem.

6. Who inspires you and why?

My mum. Not only was she a policewoman and biology teacher in Sao Paolo, she then chose to move to London to learn to speak English. After meeting my dad she never moved back.

As well as being an absolute boss at raising me, she decided to go to university in her 50s to train to become a social worker and is amazing at it. The drive she showed me in doing so was truly inspiring and I'm incredibly proud to know her.

7. What would it surprise people to know about you?

When many people turn 17 in the UK, their parents get them driving lessons for their birthday. I also got a driving lesson of some sort, however, instead of lessons to drive a car, my parents got me a half hour lesson to fly a plane. It's always been a dream of mine to fly and at the time I actually wanted to be a pilot so to be fair to them, it was a pretty great present. On the day, the captain turned to me and asked me where I wanted to go in this journey. Bare in mind that from South Wales I could have flown to London or even Snowdonia and back in the given time. What did I choose to do instead? Yes, you guessed it, fly straight over my house, that I live in, and the same streets I walk on, every single day, I still had an amazing time and would 100% like to do it again.