Claire Murray (@drclairemurray) is a beamline support scientist at the Diamond Light Source – the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Claire’s research interests cover the chemistry of both small and large molecules, and she is also actively involved in outreach activites with Diamond and the British Crystallographic Association, promoting science and crystallography to the public. Here’s more about Claire in her own words:
How did you end up in science? Curiosity was always nurtured in my family and as an avid reader my questions just kept coming!
Why did you choose your current field? I was completely enchanted by the idea of atoms and molecules when we first did this in secondary school chemistry, and this feeling has never really gone away! It isn’t really that surprising therefore that I have ended up in one of the scientific fields where you can study atoms and molecules in incredible detail. I have also felt incredibly lucky to be in a science where women have always been present and have contributed so much. My role model is Kathleen Lonsdale and she achieved so much scientifically, politically and educationally that is impossible to not be inspired by her!
Tell us about your work! I am a chemist by trade but working at Diamond I cover all sorts of science beyond the realms of chemistry! My PhD was in supramolecular chemistry where we identify key building blocks and use these to build larger molecules for a whole range of applications including medicine, data storage and processing and catalysis. These molecules recognise each other using a type of bonding that is much weaker than the traditional chemical bond between atoms, but it is incredibly powerful. At Diamond I am continuing some of this work by looking at materials which are used in catalysis processes, as well as venturing into new areas of research for me such as geochemical processes occurring on Venus, the complex chemistry of calcium carbonate and many other projects via collaborations with academics around the world!
Why should the lay public care about your research? Synchrotron science is incredibly exciting. It gives us unprecedented access to processes happening at a molecular level. Many new materials, whether they be for the building industry or for pharmacetucal drug development, are first seen at a synchrotron. We are literally at the cutting edge of science which is one of the reasons my job is so interesting!
Do you have any interesting extracurricular obligations? I am a Brownie leader for 1st Wantage Brownies in the UK. I also actively promote science through a whole range of scientific activities including science busking, talks, tours and student projects.
Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share? I might be known to interpret objects in the form of cake…!
How would you describe your ideal day off? There are so many possible answers to this question but any combination of travel, reading, food, family and friends is nice! I also love to swim and to walk.