30 April 2020

My UEA Story: Sam Rowe

Name: Sam Rowe

School: Chemistry

Research area: Solar Energy Conversion

Bio: My name is Sam Rowe and I am a 4th year PhD student working in the School of Chemistry. I grew up in a small village on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk then attended Imperial College in London for my undergraduate MSci degree. I started my PhD in 2013 working on a project which focuses on solar energy conversion.





So my name's Sam Rowe I'm a fourth year PhD student and my research is all about renewable energy, so it's all about trying to turn sunlight or solar energy into all of the different fuels and chemicals that we need. 

Why is your research important?

So for me it's important because the issues of energy affect absolutely everyone and my research really stems from the fact that fossil fuel reserves like coal, oil and gas are going to run out eventually so that's why we want to use an abundant source of energy like solar energy to make all of the different chemicals and things that we need.

What could it mean in the real world?

What I'm trying to do is turn solar energy straight into a fuel or a chemical using bacteria and that sort of technology in that interface is quite new.

What do you enjoy about your research?

So what I really enjoy about what I'm doing is that it's working at the interface between chemistry and biology, so it's trying to interface light absorbing chemicals with different bacteria. So in a way it's always trying to feed bacteria extra energy from the sun to get them to make all of the different fuels and chemicals that we want them to make.

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A Day in the Life of Sam


7:30am - 8am

Time to wake up, have a quick breakfast and then make my way on to campus. Luckily it only takes me 10 minutes to walk from my flat into the School of Chemistry so I don’t have to get out of bed too early.


9am - 12pm

I begin my day in lab by setting up experiments. This includes culturing bacteria, making fresh solutions of important chemicals and calibrating the instruments I use. Most of the morning is spent between the Schools of Chemistry and Biology and much of the work I do is within an anaerobic glove box.


12pm - 1pm (I usually have 45 minutes - 1 hour for lunch)

Normally I sit at my laptop and start working through my emails but also give myself some time to listen to music and read through any updates on Twitter and BBC News. However, when the weather’s nice I’ll take my lunch outside with other people from the lab as the UEA campus is really nice in the sun.


1pm - 3pm

In the afternoon I finish off the experiments I set up earlier and analyse the collected data on Excel. Fortunately most of my experiments give an instant result so it’s relatively easy to see if something hasn’t worked and needs repeating later in the week.


3pm - 6pm

I have a great supervisor who arranges regular meetings with me (typically once a week) to discuss progress. These last about 30 minutes - 1 hour (depending on how well my experiments have been going) and also give us the chance to talk about general lab business and upcoming conferences.



In the evening I deal with any remaining emails then spend my time playing the piano (which I started learning when I started my PhD) and catching up with family and friends on the phone. I’m also Communications Officer for the Norwich branch of the British Science Association so spend a bit of time planning outreach activities and writing blog posts.



A little later on I’ll typically be found doing some exercise or watching TV shows unless I’ve arranged to go to the cinema or meet up with friends in the city centre.


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