Professor Geoff Coates
DSM Materials Sciences Award (2012)
He’s been named one of the world’s top 100 chemists and has received his fair share of accolades – including one from DSM of course. But for Geoff Coates it's the thrill of watching his students blossom and create bright science of their own that makes it all worthwhile…
I won the award for my work in polymer chemistry and developing advanced catalysts for the synthesis of new polymer architectures. In essence, this means the creation of new carbon efficient polymers.
I’ve dedicated much of my scientific career to the development of new plastics and of course it’s hard to imagine our world without them.
However, we have still so much left to explore. For example, the move towards biodegradable materials - addressing where polymers ‘go’ at the end of their useful lives – is where our work is increasingly focused. Biodegradable and bio-based polymers are the future, which requires a new way of looking at polymer science.
The good thing about all this is that the polymer community is a tight knit one; which makes the work more enjoyable as increasingly we’re all working together to solve the major challenges in the field.
As a professor at Cornell, my job is to help guide the next generation of scientists. My students really are like an extended family and I really enjoy watching them as they leave the group and start careers of their own.
I try to prepare them for their working lives by emphasizing the importance of not just solving the problem that’s presented to them…but actually identifying the problems that no-one else has seen or thought of; because ‘picking the right problem’ is often much harder. It’s about learning to think for yourself – and it’s this questioning of the status quo that can often lead to breakthroughs.
For example, I know from personal experience that some of the most important successes I’ve had in my career began with me sitting at the bench and trying something without a preconceived notion regarding the outcome of the experiment. That’s the beauty of science…you never quite know what’s going to happen!
“It is the work of innovative scientists like Geoffrey Coates that is enabling real advances in science. And these advances are helping us to sustainably fulfill our mission of creating brighter lives for people today and generations to come.”