According to a media release issued by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF), the young scientists will experience a six-day programme with numerous lectures and panel discussions. Before they leave, the eleven young South Africans will also be hosted by ASSAF and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) at a send-off meeting, where they will interact with alumni who attended the meetings in previous years.
Alan, who grew up in Villiersdorp and matriculated from Rondebosch Boy’s High School, says he regards this as a once in a lifetime opportunity: “At the meeting, I will be able to exchange ideas with up-and-coming scientists, and draw from the knowledge and experience of established researchers.”
Alan says he has always been fascinated by Nature, and research in chemistry allows him to explore fundamental features of Nature: “Scientific research is one of the coolest jobs in the world. There is a lot of room to explore and test novel ideas. I enjoy the creativity that comes with developing a method or technique and seeing it work,” he adds.
Currently Alan is working on his PhD thesis under the guidance of Prof Len Barbour and Prof Catharine Esterhuysen in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science.
“I use experimental and computational methods to investigate water uptake by porous crystalline materials. Understanding the nature and origin of water sorption is important in the development of new materials for water extraction from the atmosphere and purification, particularly in Africa where potable water is scarce,” he explains.
In the process, he has developed novel instruments to investigate the various properties of porous crystalline materials: “I have been able to probe structure-property relationships in a way that has not been previously reported. For example, studying the structural properties of nanoconfined water at high humidities over a wide range of temperatures, has yielded interesting results regarding the fundamental nature of the phase changes of water.”
After completion of his PhD, Alan hopes to continue as a postdoctoral researcher in the chemical sciences. He is also actively involved in the crystallographic community and serves on the executive committee of the South African Crystallographic Society.