Dr Gurpreet Singh, Research Associate, Department of Materials

“During lockdown I volunteered for Sikh charities providing supplies and meals to care homes and homeless shelters.”  

Joining Imperial was a dream come true for me as I had previously applied for over 50 courses and jobs here. My inspiration was Imperial’s (supposedly) first Sikh scientist, Professor Narinder Singh Kapany, who is known as “the father of fibre optics”. I believe that I might be the second proud Sikh scientist with a PhD in natural sciences to work at the College. I previously worked in industry for a successful startup company that tested ammonia toxicity in blood.   

My current project on nuclear waste treatment is part of a national consortium on nuclear decommissioning. I am investigating the capabilities of phosphate-coated magnetic nanoparticles to adsorb radioactive uranium from nuclear waste using tiny magnetic particles. This is an exciting project that is vital to the UK government’s 2030 and 2050 goals to decommission nuclear power plants and tackle climate change.  

My work was heavily affected by COVID-19 as lockdown began just a month after I started. I couldn’t work in the lab for six months due to the supply disruptions with my chemicals and equipment and living too far from work to safely commute. I dedicated this time to writing a review paper on nuclear waste, collaborating with outreach teams from the National Nuclear Lab, winning poster competitions and presenting at online conferences.  

During lockdown I volunteered for Sikh charities providing supplies and meals to care homes and homeless shelters. I also began thinking about how few Sikh scientists are in the UK and wanted to contribute my skills and time to diversify my workplace. I devised two equality, diversity and inclusion projects. ‘Spot a Sikh Scientist’ has had great feedback and results, and I have also received significant funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to launch an online database and networking website for Sikh scientists around the world. 

Although the negative impacts of COVID-19 on our society are unquestionably profound, I have definitely seen a silver lining in this storm. Our hustling-bustling world has stopped for a few months, and it has not only given space and time for nature to heal and flourish, but also given many of us an opportunity to get out of the 9-to-5 regime and embrace flexible working and family connections.  

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