UCL School of Pharmacy


Congratulations to Research Day Poster Prize winner, Mireia Benito Montaner

23 May 2023

Mireia Benito was recently awarded the Best Poster prize at the UCL School of Pharmacy Research Day. Here she talks about her journey to UCL and her research.

Mireia Benito Montaner standing next to her poster at the School of Pharmacy PhD Research Day

I am currently in my second year of a PhD degree, with Dr Stephen Hilton's research group at the UCL School of Pharmacy. Hailing from the vibrant city of Barcelona, I pursued my passion for Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona, where I completed my undergraduate studies.

My academic journey at UCL began during the final year of my undergraduate degree, where I was granted the opportunity to participate in the Erasmus programme, which enabled me to conduct a research project overseas. I had the good fortune to be placed in Dr Stephen Hilton's group, where my passion for innovative research was further ignited.

During my research project, I focused on developing a remote monitoring system utilising Arduino software and hardware. This system was designed to report key reaction parameters from the laboratory to a customised interface platform. My initial lack of knowledge in programming was a challenge when starting this project. At the time, I believed that programming was solely for engineers. However, through my work on this system, I soon realised the value and potential of programming skills. I never anticipated that this system, along with my newfound programming expertise, would become integral to my multidisciplinary PhD research.

Upon completing my undergraduate degree I found myself at a crossroads, like many students, uncertain of the best path forward for my academic studies. It was during a conversation with Dr Hilton that the idea of pursuing a PhD was first introduced to me. Following a few months of careful consideration, I was elated to receive acceptance into the PhD programme at UCL. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, as I moved to London to embark on this exciting new adventure.

My PhD research focuses on an innovative approach to continuous flow chemistry, which incorporates three disruptive technologies: flow chemistry, 3D printing, and Arduino software. Flow chemistry differs from traditional batch chemistry by continuously pumping reagents through a reactor, rather than mixing them together in a single batch. This enables precise control over reaction conditions such as temperature, pressure, and residence time, leading to faster, safer and more efficient reactions with higher yields and fewer by-products.

However, commercially available flow chemistry systems can be expensive and inaccessible to many researchers, particularly those in academia and small-scale operations. With the use of 3D printing, researchers can design and fabricate their own flow reactors tailored to their specific needs, and Arduino technology enables precise control of reaction parameters in real-time as well as automation of processes. In light of the high costs, we are working on developing a customised 3D-printed flow system digitised with Arduino software to perform chemical synthesis in flow while accurately monitoring the reaction conditions and the system functionality through an interface platform in real-time.

In conclusion, my research demonstrates the potential of combining three innovative technologies to reshape the field of continuous flow chemistry. By leveraging the power of flow chemistry, 3D printing, and Arduino software, we aim to make this cutting-edge approach more accessible and cost-effective, ultimately enabling a broader range of researchers to pursue groundbreaking work in chemical synthesis.