Interview with Priscilla Baker

26.05.2020 - 26.09.2020

Can you present your research during your stay at CY|AS?

Electroanalysis and electrocatalysis are electrochemically driven analytical protocols for measurement and monitoring of a wide range of environmental pollutants, depending on the chemical transformations that give rise to the pollution effect. These chemical transformations include highly specific binding reactions, electrolysis, energy efficient catalytic conversion of chemical reactants, adsorption reactions, diffusion controlled reactions and coupled chemical reactions. Each environmental problem requires careful analysis of the chemical nature of the problem before the best suited methods for analysis and monitoring may be developed.The research undertaken sought to develop selective and sensitive sensors for the detection and profiling of antibiotics in aqueous systems, within the broader context of profiling emerging contaminants - a critical task identified by global environmental watchdogs.  Preliminary work includes the development of polymer electrodes for sulphonamide detection, with very sensitive and reproducible analytical reporting in laboratory standard solutions as well as municipal tap.

Does the Fellows-in-Residence program meet your objectives in terms of research and scientific collaboration?

The Fellow in residence programme has allowed me to integrate as an active team member with the LPPI researchers, to develop joint interests in a diverse range of projects centred around sensor development and energy applications.  The common factor between all these projects is the interest in novel high surface area electrochemically active nanomaterials which could benefit the focus of either sensors or energy applications.  During the 4 month FIR stay, the initial contact with LPPI has been expanded to a fully representative consortium working on mutually beneficial materials and technology outcomes.  This is very important for capacity building, research training of postgraduate students and for developing teaching capacity in teaching current hot topics in science. The consortium partnership established between SensorLab (University of the Western Cape ) and the LPPI laboratory (CY Cergy Paris) is a unique innovation in science knowledge sharing and capacity building between South Africa and France.

Describe your impressions of your experience at CY|AS

My experience during the 4 month stay in Paris has coincided with the unprecedented world pandemic of COVI-19, during which the support and comfort offered by the team of CY|AS has been invaluable.  They have supported our general orientation, as a family here in Paris, with advice and support for appropriate schooling, accommodation and day to day living and mobility.  The staff have been warm and friendly and ever willing to assist.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the CY|AS leadership and the entire team for a very pleasant and productive stay in Paris, notwithstanding the challenging times. 

What will this research period bring to you and to your home university? 

The research projects that are being developed between the SensorLab (University of the Western Cape, South Africa) and LPPI (CY Cergy Paris) embrace novel materials preparation strategies that will be incorporated into real time solutions for environmental monitoring and associated green energy demands.  This is a hot area of research within which to develop new young research talent and professionals.  The research activities will provide opportunities for joint training of Master and PhD students, capacity building research opportunities for young academics and enhance the teaching and training programmes of both parties significantly.  Students and staff will have the opportunity to visit the partner laboratories, benefit from services offered on location and share research expertise.  These research exchange visits will also be culturally enriching and broaden both the personal and professional horizons of all participants. 

Do you have other plans for the future, other destinations in mind?

SensorLab supports and participates in a number of international partnerships including EU partnerships for mobility, bilateral research engagements and joint supervision of PhD students on a co-tutelle basis.  Some of the latest partnership programmes include the Research and Innovative Staff Exchange (RISE) project titled “Nanotechnology-enabled detection of circulating nucleic acids for cancer diagnostics” led by University of Rome, Tor Vergata (Italy) and the Aquatic Pollutants Joint Transnational Programme co-ordinated by Maynooth University (Ireland).    These research partnerships are consortium based with interlinking work packages that offer teaching, training and researcher mobility to all partners.