Gift Mehlana

2012 (and 2014!) Scholarship Program Recipient

Research Proposal: Crystal Engineering of Some Pyridyl Carboxylic Acids

Research Proposal: Crystal Engineering of Pyridyl Benzoic Acids

Research Synopsis

Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) have received great attention due to their useful properties. These materials provide a unique platform for achieving controllable physical properties such as framework flexibility which is normally triggered upon guest absorption. My research focuses on preparation and characterisation of MOFs for use as storage and sensing devices. Pyridyl carboxylates ligands, in particular 3-(4-pyridyl) benzoic acid and 4-(4-pyridyl) benzoic acid, are used to connect metal ions to give 1D, 2D and 3D extended structures which are highly porous. The advantage of using these ligands is that they give rise to compounds which are dynamic and are capable of responding to their environment. The flexibility of the materials arises from the ability of the ligands to rotate about their connecting points as well as the different binding modes that can be assumed by the carboxylate moiety under different conditions. Such materials are ideally suitable for solvatochromic sensing. The materials made are characterised by thermal techniques such as Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Thermogravimetric analysis and Hot Stage Microscopy. Structural elucidation is performed by single crystal X-ray diffraction and powder X-ray diffraction studies are used to check the phase purity and phase transition of the prepared materials. Rietveld refinement and Pawley fitting are conducted on powder X-ray data to validate unit cell parameters in situations where single crystals are not suitable for data collection. Topological analysis of the structures is performed in TOPOS computer program to have a better understanding of the network connectivity.

Impact of Scholarship

I was most privileged to be among the 2012 Ludo Frevel scholarship recipients. This scholarship contributed immensely to my educational experience and influenced my career. I have subsequently received several scholarships and awards including a poster award at the Indaba 7 conference in 2012 which was funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Winning the 2012 Ludo Frevel scholarship reinforced my self-confidence and gave me powers of resilience. My quest for more knowledge has become a reality and I trust that this will enhance capacity building and expertise in the area of metal organic frameworks.

Professional Pursuits

As a demonstrator and researcher, I always felt that the majority of Southern African universities need a paradigm shift in the way they conduct scientific research. This is what inspired me to pursue doctorate studies by research. Simply, my ambition is to bridge the gap between scientific research at universities and industry. As I reflect upon my plans for the future, there are two key areas in which I wish to make a meaningful contribution: (i) I plan to work with research based groups in the applied chemistry sector as well as in local universities with an aim to improve research and human resource capacity building through training and (ii) identifying scientific research projects that harness the available resources in southern Africa.

Besides my passion, hard work and motivation to achieve this, I do realise the importance of acquiring the right kind of knowledge which would render me capable of delivering the goods. I believe that pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Chemistry at the University of Cape Town under the guidance of Professor Susan Bourne and Dr. Gaëlle Ramon would provide me with the ideal learning environment to gain that knowledge. Once I accomplish my studies, my ultimate goal is to become a Researcher at a top University in Southern Africa. I wish to conduct in-depth crystallographic-oriented research as well as being instrumental in developing a large pool of well-trained university graduates catering to the needs of the industry, public sector and the community.

Announcement… We are pleased to announce that Gift has been named a 2014 Ludo Frevel scholarship recipient!
Congratulations, Gift!


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