Interview with Hao Zhang – Enterprise Fellow 2023
26 October 2023
Enterprise Training and development
Hao is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Chemistry of the University of Oxford. He is a member of the Chinese Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Electrochemical Society and the London Centre for Nanotechnology. He graduated from Nanjing University in 2019, focusing on the preparation of metal-organic framework-derived materials and their applications in electrocatalysis.
1. Tell us a little about where you come from, and what moves or motivates you?
I am from China, I got my Ph.D. from Imperial College, and I was an exchange student at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. My majors are mechanics, chemical engineering, and materials science for my Bachelors, Master and Ph.D., respectively, and now I am a PDRA in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, so I am very aware of the importance of the intersection of different disciplines.
Working across disciplines bring me a lot of inspiration and ideas in scientific research, and provides different perspectives to solve problems when I encounter bottlenecks. My research interests at Oxford concern the controllable synthesis of 3d transition metal-based nanomaterials and the fundamental understanding of the correlation between micro/nanostructures and (photo)electrochemistry performance, and I have very close cooperation with SCG companies in Thailand. This is mainly since CO2 emissions have had a very large impact on the Earth’s environment in recent years. Hydrogen, as a sustainable energy source, has the advantages of high energy density and clean preparation, so it is crucial to prepare catalysts for hydrogen production or water splitting.
However, I found that there is still a big gap between the application environment of water splitting catalysts prepared in the laboratory and the actual industrial application. This makes me think that scientific researchers should not only be limited to laboratory research but should also communicate and cooperate more with enterprises to understand the real needs of industrial companies, then taking this as a guide to improve the preparation method and application environment of the catalysts.
2. How is Entrepreneurship and Innovation connected to your area of study or research, and how is it evolving?
As a scientific researcher, I normally have some theoretical foundation in my research field, but there are always many unexpected problems in actual production, which require a lot of practical experience to complete. Through enterprise practice, I can be prompted to discover problems in actual production and use this as a guide to improve my own research.
At the same time, scientific researchers are natural innovators, and the interaction with other researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds can help me solve many problems that cannot be explained just by the knowledge of my discipline, and allow me to look at problems from different perspectives.
3. Why are you attracted to entrepreneurship?
I believe that entrepreneurship can transform what I have learned and researched into products with practical benefits, and create greater value for society and the environment. This is very attractive to me. More importantly, it is very exciting when you see the technology you have developed translated into a real product. At the same time, I also like the spirit of adventure and exploration in entrepreneurship, which is not only crucial in innovation and entrepreneurship, but also the cornerstone of the continuous progress of human civilization.
4. Tell us some of the things that you hope the Fellowship will help you to do or achieve, for yourself or for others.
I think there are three things:
Firstly, it can increase my own entrepreneurial knowledge and experience, including how to combine existing laboratory technology with actual industrial production, how to attract corporate investment, how to manage talent, etc.
Secondly, it can give me a platform to bring people from different disciplines and countries together, promote their exchanges and practice their entrepreneurial thinking, and realize the value of communication and information exchange.
Finally, it can put my experience in clean energy and catalyst preparation to practical use, and create social and environmental value, which is critical for addressing the global warming and energy crises we are experiencing in the 21st century.