A headshot of a man,

Andy Ward

University of Warwick


Homogeneous hydrocarbon oxidation using nitrous oxide as a sustainable feedstock


  • Adrian Chaplin 

PhD Summary

Using chemical catalysts, we are ultimately aiming to break down nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas, into nitrogen and oxygen. The oxygen can then be inserted by the same catalysts into hydrocarbon molecules (like those found in petrol) to form alcohols. 

Previous activity

Prior to starting at Warwick I was a secondary school Chemistry teacher for 7 years, following on from two and a half years of postgraduate research at St Andrews. 

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Within the last 1-2 years I felt an increasing desire to return to the lab and engage in my subject, having kept in touch with former research colleagues who have gone on to produce fascinating work of their own. This specific project also has strong overlap with one of my previous research topics (hydrocarbon oxidation), and so the opportunity to revisit this area in a group specialising in organometallic chemistry was too appealing to ignore. 

Why did you choose CENTA?

A strong appeal of CENTA was the scheme’s focus on generating well-rounded graduates able to thrive in whichever career path they wish to pursue. The wide variety of training courses on offer to assist with this goes beyond that of a typical PhD studentship, coupled with the exposure to work from within the cohort on environmentally-focused projects. 

Future plans

While I will naturally benefit technically from exposure to advanced laboratory skills and techniques, succeeding in a challenging long term project will in itself mean solving new and complex problems in a time-sensitive context. Coupled together with opportunities to present my work to a range of audiences and in a range of media, I would expect to be well placed to pursue rolls in or outside of the laboratory within a technical context. 

Looking longer term, my main desire is to work in governmental scientific roles, either in research or those more aimed at regulation and policy.