Congratulations Dr James Entwistle!

Jim has successfully (with minor corrections) defended his thesis today – well done and well deserved!

You have successfully overcome many obstacles, not least the repeating theme of ‘no degradation observed’. Enjoy this moment, with a glass of bubbly or two; I hope the delivery has arrived – to bridge the time until we can meet in person again.

Christmas 2020

Instead of the traditional Thanskgiving Feast, the group was restricted to meeting online – albeit in a festive mood and fashion!

Thanks also to Jim for the Christmas gift for the Mössbauer – it will surely have felt appreciated and remain the group’s loyal workhorse!

Congratulations Dr Panagiota Adamou!

Pani passed her viva today with minor corrections – well done and congratulations! In spite of adverse circumstances due to the Covid lock-down, you completed your fantastic thesis and went through an online viva; no one could have done better. I am curious to learn what and where will be next for you – all doors are open! I raise my virtual glass to you, until we can meet again in person.

Maggie and Harry win a CMS Travel Grant

Congratulations to Maggie and Harry who both were successful with their application to the Clay Minerals Society for a graduate student travel grant! They will both attend the CMS meeting in Richland, WA, which was postponed to October 2020. Harry also won the Blair Jones/Jane Flinn Award, which is given each year to the highest rated Travel Grant Application.

Well done – and congratulations again!

‘Traditional’ Thanksgiving Dinner

Now that the group’s Thanksgiving Dinner has been made into a tradition, Anke hosted the current group members for an early Thanksgiving (16 November). It was a very enjoyable evening and comments include: ‘we should do get-togethers like this more often’!

Left to right: Anke, Nikos, Harry, Christos, and Maggie. (Not present due to the flu: Jim).

Harry and Anke present at Eurclay 2019 in Paris

Harry’s digest of the conference experience – ‘Clay Science à la continent’

The first week of July 2019 was an exciting time for Clay scientists across Europe and the world, marking the arrival of the quadrennial meeting of the European Clay Groups Association conference – known to those in the clay minerals scene as Euroclay. This year, Euroclay 2019 was held in Paris at the beautiful Pierre et Marie Curie campus of Sorbonne University. Amongst this flock of keen clay scientists migrating towards these enticing European climes were some members of the Neumann Research Group, all of whom expecting to flaunt their figurative academic plumage and proudly present the latest of their research. The group included myself (Harry Brooksbank) and Christos Vasilopanagos armed with some robust research posters, as well as Nikos Apeiranthitis and the Honourable Captain of our competent clay mineral corvette, Dr Anke Neumann; both of whom ready to deliver some powerful punches of knowledge by spoken presentation.

After flying in by dribs and drabs over the preceding weekend, and with Anke making appearances at some meetings with the Clay Mineral Society elite, the conference began on the first Monday of the Month. The event was kick-started with a welcome reception in the University’s impressive subterranean auditorium and all delegates were given a stylish conference bag, with chic white china-clay commemorative glasses to match. After the event had commenced with a key-note talk on clay mineral crystalline and osmotic swelling, the first day of lectures began and throughout the day we listened to a number of interesting presentations delivered by the first batch of scientists from across the globe. Talks on the first day had topics including clay mineral characterization, clay mineral application in construction, hydrothermal mineral alteration, fault-zone chronology and layered double hydroxide use in pharmaceuticals. But a particular highlight for myself and others were some of the talks regarding clay mineral and organic compound relationships in investigations into potential life signatures on Mars.

The evening of Monday was particularly exciting with the arrival of the conferences first poster session of the week. Throughout the evening, the horde of eager clay mineral scientists were supplied with red wine and a selection of fancy cheeses to help lubricate the gears of academic mingling while they mulled between posters. My poster presented the recent results collected investigating the effects of multiple redox cycles on the reactivity and structure of Fe-bearing clay minerals, and Christos presented a poster on the impact of clay mineral redox state on fines migration in low-salinity enhanced oil recovery. Both of our posters received a lot of attention and questions, and while it was difficult to speak to everyone responded effectively to as many questions and comments as we could. Overall the first evening’s poster session felt like a great success, and after a few hours of light-hearted discussion and red wine the party headed home in the late Parisian sun.

Day 2, and the conference leaped back into action. Anke delivered an interesting presentation just after the first session of the morning to a busy room of scientists, highlighting some of the recent results gathered by fellow Newcastle clay mineral celebrity Jim Entwistle over his PhD. The presentation was a success and was described by one audience member (who will remain anonymous) as “really interesting, possibly the highlight of all the talks given on Tuesday”. Praise indeed! Well done to Dr. Neumann. The second day also finished with a second poster session, also kindly hydrated with a selection of refreshing beverages. As conference-goers felt settled into the flow of the event, more conversations were sparked and a number of new useful friends and contacts were made.
Day three of the conference took the figurative foot off of the academic gas-pedal and opened the doors for more leisurely pursuits in and out of Paris. There were a number of exciting excursions available for the clay mineral party to indulge in, including a porcelain museum, a visit to Soleil the local Synchotron facility, and a guided tour around the Parisian Latin Quarter. Anke vouched to partake in a very early morning excursion to Andra; a geological disposal facility 300km outside of Paris, which I hear was fascinating. I on the other hand, instead decided to spend my Wednesday learning about Gaboon vipers and binturongs in le Ménagerie – a quaint zoo in the botanical gardens neighbouring the Sorbonne university – can recommend.

Thursday morning and the activity swung back into the realm of hard-core academia, and the leisure-weary cohort of scientists once again gathered back at the Sorbonne for more of what brought them here – the enticing secrets and mysteries of clay minerals. Helping lead another valiant quest for knowledge into the magical world of clay minerals was Nikos Apeiranthitis, another Durham student working with the Neumann lab. Nikos delivered a spoken presentation in the morning session on his work on cation selectivity in redox-active clay minerals and their impacts for enhanced oil recovery. The talk went down well and received a number of questions and comments. After the talk sessions grew to a close, the Durham & Newcastle clay mineral gang (past and present) attending the event met in the university atrium for a commemorative group photo:

Left to right: Christian, Anke, Diego, Harry, Catriona, Chris, Christo, Nipada, Tom, Nikos.

What a majestic bunch of scientists.

That evening, while Anke went to enjoy the conference’s Gala dinner, myself and the Durham boys (Nikos and Christos) sauntered off for a hearty Italian meal by the beautiful Pantheon in the city’s Latin Quarter.

Friday marked the end of the conference, and the legion of clay mineral devotees gathered for one last day of presentations. Lectures went from morning through to the afternoon and finally ended with a thankyou speech and a cheeky sneak peek into the exciting adventures install the next time the conference would resurface – from Russia with love… Euroclay 2023: Moscow.
In summary, the week had been very enjoyable trip for our Redox team all round. Members of our team had delivered a number of well-received presentations, and on top of that had a week peppered generously with stimulating chat, delicious food and perfect summer weather. All in all Euroclay 2019 was a success.

Kath officially graduated

Today, Kath officially graduated at a special ceremony in Kings Hall. Quite moving to see the first PhD student REALLY graduating and being released into the world. I am very proud and am looking forward to see Kath shine with her future research! Congratulations again, Dr Katherine A. Rothwell.

Research meeting on clay minerals in the natural and built environment

On 17 May, the research meeting on Clay minerals in the natural and built environment: formation, chemistry & applications took place at Newcastle University’s USB Building. The meeting was jointly organised by the Clay Minerals Group of the Mineralogical Society and the Environmental Chemistry Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The organising team were Anke and Laura Newsome (University of Exeter).

The meeting attracted 50 registered participants from academia, industry, and government and featured 11 oral presentations and 8 posters. The two keynote speakers, Prof Josef Breu (University of Bayreuth) and Prof Susan Stipp (Danish Technical University), delivered inspiring and excellent overviews of the research in their fields, which were complemented by an industrial perspective given by the invited speakers David Owen and an introduction into synchrotron-based X-ray spectroscopy by Bhoopesh Mishra (invited speaker). Both coffee and lunch breaks as well as the informal drinks after the meeting gave ample opportunity for networking in a relaxed atmosphere.  The Clay Minerals Group also awarded student prices for Best Oral Presentation (Panagiota Adamou, Newcastle University) and for Best Poster Presentation (Jeffrey Paulo Perez, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences).

Impression of the research meeting

Jeffrey Paulo Perez from GFZ being awarded the Best Poster prize

Panagiota Adamou from Newcastle University being awarded the Best Oral Presentation prize

Anke shortlisted for Newcastle TEA award

Thanks to Kath who nominated Anke in the category ‘Research Supervisor of the Year’ for Newcastle Student Union’s The Teaching Awards! The kind words of the nomination are highly appreciated: knowing to have made a difference in someone’s life is fantastic! Though shortlisted, the award went to another outstanding supervisor during the ceremony on 9 May.