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Group Members

Dr Helen Willcock - Senior Lecturer in Polymer Science

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Helen joined the Department of Materials in 2015 as a Lecturer in Polymer Science, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2020. Her research aims to tune the properties of polymers by controlling their architecture and morphology, with a particular focus on materials for sensing and imaging applications. She completed her Master's degree in Chemistry at the University of Liverpool, followed by a Unilever funded PhD studying dendrimer solution properties under the supervision of Professor Steve Rannard and Professor Andy Cooper. After a short Unilever funded PDRA she moved to the University of Warwick in 2009 to work as a Research Fellow with Professor Rachel O'Reilly on the BP funded Project Pelican. This resulted in the development of a patented technology for use in enhanced oil recovery for which the group won the Industry-Academia collaboration award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2018. She supervises a diverse and welcoming research group who focus on the application of stimuli responsive materials for biomedical, sensing and imaging applications.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr Samantha Bodman 

Sam joined Loughborough University in January 2020 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Chemistry Department working with Dr Stephen Butler on an EPSRC funded project on the development of new luminescent probes for multisite recognition of polyphosphate anions. She joined the Willcock group in October 2022 working on new hydrogel materials that can effectively encapsulate a variety of ion sensors for selective anion recognition. We are currently working with the Mast Group to develop new sensing capabilities.

PhD Students

Caty Marsden (2019-2023)

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Caty was born in Preston, Lancashire, and studied for an MChem at Lancaster University, with a year studying abroad at Queensland University of Technology. For her Master's project, Caty worked with Dr Nick Fletcher, developing tethered ligands, in an attempt to demonstrate control of stereochemistry in tris heteroleptic ruthenium(II) complexes. During her time at Lancaster she enjoyed rowing for the university, and also carried out two summer internships with Dr John Hardy and Dr Michael Coogan. Caty recently moved to Loughborough University to begin her PhD concerned with the development of macromolecular MRI contrast agents.

Ollie Harris (2021-2024)

Oliver graduated from Loughborough University with an MEng in Materials Science and Engineering in July 2021, where his research projects focussed on green technology. As a part of his studies he also spent a year in industry working at Zotefoams, a physically-blown crosslinked polymer foam manufacturer, which served as a source of inspiration to pursue a research project in sustainable polymers.
Oliver joined the group in July 2021 as a PhD researcher investigating sustainable polymers derived from plant oils. Research focusses will include extracting monomers directly from a range of plant oils via transesterification and subsequently using RAFT polymerisation to make homopolymers and copolymers for applications where they can replace materials derived from petrochemical sources.

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Kate Jones (2022-2025)

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Kate was born in Salford, Manchester and completed her MChem in Chemistry at Manchester Metropolitan University, graduating in 2020. For her final year project, Kate worked on synthesising models of Amavadin, to better understand the biological function of the complex within the funghi, Amanita Muscaria. During her time at MMU, Kate enjoyed competing in Trampolining, running the Chemistry Society and also carrying out a summer research project under Dr Mark McLaughlin. After graduating, she worked at Reckitt's as an analytical assistant on the brand Mucinex, focusing on the analysis of novel dosing formats using HPLC methods. Kate began her PhD at Loughborough in October 2022 to develop existing MRI contrast agents, with pH responsive polymers. 

Taisiia Stankevych (2022-2025)

Taya graduated from Loughborough University in 2022 with a first-class honours Bachelor's degree in Material Science and Engineering. Taya's final year project focused on room temperature degradation of PLA and PLA blends at high moisture conditions under the supervision of Dr Helen Wilcock and Dr Elisa Mele. 
Taya joined the Materials department as a PhD student in 2022 under the supervision of Dr Yi Liu and Dr Helen Wilcock. The aim of the project is to improve the recyclability of high-volume manufactured polymers with a particular focus on improving the recyclability of PLA as a bio-sourced and biodegradable material of rising interest. 

Ollie Scaife (2015-Present)

Ollie Scaife is a British PhD student born in Norwich, Norfolk in 1992. Ollie graduated in 2015 with a combined Bachelor's and Master's degree (Mchem) in chemistry from Loughborough University. Throughout his degree, Ollie specialised in Inorganic and physical chemistry as well as radiochemistry. During his Masters he researched fluorescent naphthalimide tertiary phosphine ligands and their transition metal complexes, with a view to making tuneable fluorescent probes. Development of fluorescent chelation ligands for Pt(II) ions. This research was conducted with Dr Martin Smith, a very knowledgeable phosphine chemist. Ollie started his PhD with the Materials Department at Loughborough University in October 2015, under the supervision of Dr Helen Willcock and Dr Elisa Mele. The project focus is on the development of stimuli responsive aqueous supramolecular polymers and their ability to form hydrogels.

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