Case study: Professor Karen Wilson

"Being associated with the Royal Society gave other people confidence in my abilities and showed them that I had a track record. It ultimately gave me the credibility of a prestigious fellowship."
Awarded: 2011 – 2015, Employer: Cardiff University, Host: Johnson Matthey

Karen Wilson is Professor of Catalysis at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), having recently left her role as Research Director and Professor of Catalysis at the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University. In her previous position at Cardiff University in 2011, she was awarded an Industry Fellowship to work with Johnson Matthey on the development of catalysts for biofuel synthesis. "At the time, biodiesel was something of increasing interest to Johnson Matthey. They wanted to understand more about the fundamentals of how catalysis worked in biofuel processes and I needed to see the bigger picture of what industry in my area needed from me."

Through this collaboration, Karen and Johnson Matthey were able to study catalysts under realistic working conditions and design some new catalysts for industrial applications. "My Industry Fellowship allowed me to get to know the company better, to develop working relationships and build a closer partnership."

Karen was drawn to the scheme due to its part time flexibility and industrial focus. "At the time I had a permanent academic position, and the Industry Fellowship was rare in that enabled permanent staff members to complete a part time fellowship with industry."

 Working with Johnson Matthey on this project inspired Karen to refocus her research on the refining of biomass into fuels and speciality chemicals, and subsequently encouraged her move to Aston University.

"My Industry Fellowship allowed me to establish important links and understand the real world challenges of my research. In catalysis particularly, you need to work closely with companies and adapt your research to meet their needs."