Current Members


Dr Meng Wang /meng-wang

Meng obtained his BSc degree from the University of Sheffield and completed his master’s degree in polymer science at the same institute in 2015. After that, he moved to the University of Edinburgh and joined our group. He completed his PhD with the GML working on polymeric frustrated Lewis pairs for application in novel stimuli responsive materials and catalysis. He is now a postdoc with the group working on the synthesis of biodegradable polyesters.

Dr Thomas Bennett

Thomas was born and raised in South-East Queensland, Australia. Despite spending too much time at the beach, he obtained a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Queensland in 2011, completing his final year project under the supervision of A. Prof. Idriss Blakey and Prof. Andrew Whittaker. He then remained in the same research group to pursue his PhD, graduating in 2015. His thesis focused on the synthesis and characterisation of block copolymer/ionic liquid composites, and the study of their structure-property relationships. In 2016 he relocated to the University of Nottingham to take up a postdoc position in Prof. Steven Howdle’s research group, during which he investigated the synthesis block copolymer microparticles in supercritical carbon dioxide, and their conversion into hierarchically structured inorganic materials. In May 2019, Thomas moved to Manchester to join the Shaver group as a KTP associate. His biggest challenge in Manchester to date is understanding the local accent and dialect.

Dr Christina Picken

Christina began her career in the realm of pharmaceutical polymers; after finishing her MChem at the University of Reading, she completed her PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at UCL with the Brocchini/Clapp labs and later became a polymer chemist for a biotechnology start-up, Somaserve. Throughout her roles, she has been an active advocate for environmental awareness in research, effective public engagement, and is passionate about creating a sustainable future. The middle of a pandemic seemed the perfect time to move to a city in lockdown to follow her dreams to help save the world, thus she joined the Shaver lab in Autumn 2020.

Dr Martin Burgess

Martin completed his first degree in Engineering at Cambridge University long before any other team members existed on this earth. After a career as a Chartered Accountant, working mostly in retail businesses he changed tack and studied for an MSc in Food & Water Security at Aberystwyth University in 2015. This subsequently led on to a PhD researching the Implementation of Personal Carbon Accounts as a means of changing the relationship between people and their energy use. He is contemplating the reality of life as the lone Swansea City season ticket holder in Manchester.

Utku Yolsal /utku-yolsal

Utku was born and raised in Cyprus, completing his Chemistry (BSc) degree in 2016 at the University of Durham. Following 3 amazing years in Durham, he decided to pursue his Masters there under the supervision of Professor Lian Hutchings. Lian introduced him to Schlenk line and fancy glassware for the first time ever there. He joined the Green Materials Laboratory in October and is currently working on poly(frustrated Lewis pairs).

Tom Horton /tom-horton

Tom joined the group in January 2019 after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol, including a year at the University of British Columbia working with Professor Laurel Schafer. He completed his Master’s project with Professor Ian Manners working on polyborosiloxane synthesis, before making the move north to join our group. Tom’s research focuses on polymeric frustrated Lewis pairs for catalytic applications.

Theona Şucu /theona-sucu

Theona was born in Ploiești, a small town in Romania. She pursued her studies af The University of Edinburgh and graduated with a Masters in Chemistry with Industrial Experience. Theona undertook a year-long industrial placement at Solvay in Stamford, CT, where she provided analytical support to the Polymer Additives department. This role sparked her interest in polymer science and upon her return to Edinburgh, she worked on her Masters project under the supervision of Prof. Michael Shaver and Dr Jennifer Garden, focusing on the synthesis of polystyrene mimics from biorenewable feedstocks. She re-joined the group in Manchester for her PhD and she is working on the synthesis and characterisation of novel monomers and polymers.

Zoe Schyns /zoe-schyns

Zoe studied at The University of Edinburgh and graduated with a Masters in Chemical Physics with Industrial Experience. During her placement year, Zoe focused on improving the interactions between photosensitive coatings and aluminium substrates for lithographic purposes. She completed her Masters project with Professor Cait MacPhee, investigating interfacial self-assembly of Bacillus subtilis-secreted proteins for which she won the Chemical Physics research project prize. She started her PhD in September 2019 and will focus on improving the recyclability of various polymeric materials.


Sammie is an honorary member of the team, who made the long journey across the Atlantic with Mike. He is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, but is Canadian born. He loves Manchester because he gets to drink in pubs (his favourite is Reasons to be Cheerful!). But he still misses the deep snow and enticing skunks of PEI – although it does mean fewer baths!


Callie is an honorary member of the team. She’s a former racing greyhound and we rescued her from Greyhound Rescue Fife. She was born in Durham and, while she’s super-duper fast, she wasn’t up to the high standards of evil greyhound racers. So now she is part of our family! She loves sleeping and meeting new people. In fact, she’s a registered TheraPet, working at care homes to brighten up people’s lives. She’s a pretty mellow girl unless there are bread rolls or squirrels involved!


Joanne Dunne /joanne-dunne

Joanne began her PhD in October 2016 after graduating from the University of Dundee with a degree Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery. She spent three months working as a medicinal chemist in the Drug Discovery Unit at the University where she worked on synthesising compounds to aid genetic skin diseases. Co-supervised by Stephen Thomas, Joanne’s research involves looking at radical mechanisms in metal catalysis and how their applications can be applied in synthesis and polymerisation. During the week she is committed to pushing electrons around, at weekends she can be found outside, probably trying to train her pack of dogs.

Panos Kolyvakis

Panos graduated form the university of Edinburgh, receiving the 2017 BSc award. He did his undergraduate project in the Shaver group, working with Meng on boron chemistry. He started his PhD on July 2017 and is currently working under the supervision of Prof. Michael Shaver and Prof. Neil McKeown. His project involves the development of novel polymeric adsorbents for water purification. Another Shaver group member trying to make the world a better place!

Anand Jay Gaston 

Jay completed his MSci in Natural Sciences in 2017 from the University of Nottingham, which included a year studying abroad at the University of Maryland in USA. Following a Master’s project in chemical biology he began his PhD in September 2017. Co-supervised by Jennifer Garden, Jay’s research involves using multifunctional salen ligands for polymer catalysis.

Weronika Gruszka

Weronika graduated with MChem in Chemistry from the University of Edinburgh in July 2017. In her fourth year, she spent a year in Prof Paul Dyson’s research laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland where she worked on the catalytic synthesis of methanol from carbon dioxide and diols via cyclic carbonates. This sparked her interest in upcycling of carbon dioxide in chemical synthesis and upon her return to Edinburgh, she undertook her final year project with Dr Jennifer Garden, looking at the catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygenated polymeric materials. She is looking forward to taking this project further during her PhD as part of the EPSRC CRITICAT Centre for Doctoral Training.