Wearable devices one of many postgraduate projects at the School of Chemical Sciences Research Showcase

12 September 2017
Postgraduate student Paul Baek, School of Chemical Sciences
Postgraduate student, Paul Baek

Imagine stretchable tablets or smartphones that we can just fold into our pockets. Or heart monitors or temperature sensors that can be patched onto your skin directly in the form of bandages.

These are the ideas that postgraduate student, Paul Baek is exploring as part of his PhD research developing new polymeric materials for wearable devices.

“I’m trying to make and characterise unique electronic polymer materials [plastics] that can conduct electricity as well as stretch and heal – just like your skin,” he says.

“One of the most exciting developments is that you can come up with polymeric materials of desirable properties, simply by modifying the chemical structure of the polymers at the atomic scale – like a wizard really.”

Paul is looking forward to sharing his work with fellow students and academics at the School of Chemical Sciences annual Research Showcase on 15 September.

It’s his third showcase and this year he’s one of only seven doctoral students selected to give an oral presentation.

Paul sees it as a great opportunity to share his research story and leave the audience with a strong take-home message about his work.

“The field of wearable devices is rapidly expanding, but only a few research groups all around the world, including ours, are working to create and understand new electronic polymers that will allow more wearable devices to come to reality.”

Fellow student, Rebecca Jelley, is looking forward to sharing her research developments too. Rebecca’s researching grape marc, a bio-waste comprising predominantly grape skin and seeds.

“Grape marc is a waste product of wine-making, and the annual global totals are on the million tonne scale,” she says. “We know that extracts from grape marc contain significant amounts of phenolic compounds.

“I’m currently looking for a way to effectively and efficiently extract these phenolic compounds, and also possibly aromaprecursors, as it could lead to New Zealand being at the forefront of solving this problem – and turning these into commercially viable products for  a range of industries.”

Paul and Rebecca both love the problem solving skills they’ve developed working on their projects and the journey of discovery studying chemistry has taken them on.

“What inspires me most about chemistry is that it allows you to paint a mental picture of how everything works in this world.  From simple things like how party glow sticks glow, to more complicated things like quantum mechanics, chemistry allows you to actually "see" what is happening,” Paul says.

The 2017 School of Chemical Sciences Research Showcase involves more than 100 postgraduate students presenting their research through oral presentations, two-minute talks, and a poster display, to fellow students, academics, commercial suppliers and research partners.

(Paul Baek is supervised by Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic. Rebecca Jelley is supervised by Dr Bruno Fedrizzi)

Find out more about the Research Showcase