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Dr Utku Yolsal

Utku obtained his BSc and MSc (by Research) degrees in Chemistry from Durham University. His masters work focussed on the preparation of hyperbranched polysiloxanes. Realising he likes polymers; he pursued his studies at the Universities of Edinburgh and Manchester under the supervision of Prof Mike Shaver. His PhD was on the synthesis and rheological characterisation of polymeric frustrated Lewis pair gels. After spending some time in industry, learning about high pressure systems and seed coatings, he joined the Garden Group as a PDRA in April 2022. Utku is currently working on polymer modifications in collaboration with an industrial partner. In his free time, he likes to do some hiking and go for a walk around the city.

PhD students

Phoebe Lowy

Phoebe graduated from Cardiff University in 2019 with an MChem in Chemistry. In her third year she spent a year with Dr Victoria Blair at Monash University, Melbourne where she worked on the synthesis of phosphindoles and their alkali metal mediated metalation reactions. Phoebe joined the Garden group through the SOFI2 CDT. She developed the synthesis of heterotrimetallic salen complexes for ring-opening polymerisation. Outside of the lab Phoebe enjoys eating, walking and baking.

Yali Zhou

Yali graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2018 with an MSc in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry. In her Master’s thesis project she worked on quantum mechanics calculations and molecular dynamics simulation to investigate catalysed reactions. Being greatly interested in catalysis, Yali decided to join the Garden group for a PhD. Her research project focussed on the design and synthesis of heterometallic catalysts for lactide polymerisation. Yali enjoys playing the piano and ukulele, doing photography and road tripping during her spare time.

Weronika Gruszka - now with Johnson Matthey

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.

Her PhD research focused on the synthesis of novel homo- and hetero-metallic complexes for the ring-opening polymerisation of cyclic esters as part of the EPSRC CRITICAT Centre for Doctoral Training. In her spare time away from chemistry, Weronika likes to test out new recipes in the kitchen, explore new places and keep active by swimming and going to the gym.

Anand Jay Gaston -  now with Shellworks

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 the Garden group in September 2017.  Co-supervised by Mike Shaver, Jay’s research involved using multifunctional salen ligands as catalysts for the polymerisation of carbon dioxide, lactones and more!

Outside of the lab Jay enjoys going to the gym, visiting the cinema and exploring the pubs and bars around Edinburgh.

MRes students

Annie Rae

Annie joined the Garden group as an MRes student after graduating with a BSc in Chemistry from Kingston University London. Her project involved research into the preparation of new polymer materials through ring-opening copolymerisation, facilitated by bimetallic catalysts.


In her spare time Annie enjoys walking round the city and going to gigs with her house mates.

MChem and BSc students

Eva Spanachi

Eva joined the Garden group to complete her final year MChem project focusing on the formation of block copolymers. In her spare time, Eva enjoys going to the gym, doing some yoga, baking and painting.

Biddy Hyde

Biddy joined the Garden group for her final year as a MChem student after completing a summer internship analysing whisky samples with Tadlock and Thomson. Her project was in partnership with Impact Solutions and focused on developing new biobased polyamides. In her spare time, Biddy enjoys scuba diving and open water swimming in the sea around Scotland.

Katharine Welch

Katharine joined the group in her final year for her MChem project. Her project focussed on the synthesis of poly(lactic acid) and poly(caprolactone) block copolymers using a bis zinc ProPhenol catalyst. 

In her spare time, Katharine enjoys running, hiking and discovering new places to eat around the city.

Haopeng Photo.jpg
Haopeng Sha

Haopeng joined the Garden group as an MChem student after undertaking his 4P project with Dr Jennifer Garden. His current project focuses on homobimetallic magnesium catalyst for ring-opening polymerisation of cyclic esters.


Haopeng enjoys reading novels and watching movies in his spare time.

Megan D'Alton

Megan joined the Garden group for the final year project for MChem. Her current project involves research into lithium catalysts for carbon dioxide/epoxide polymerisation.


Megan in her free time enjoys travelling and playing piano.

Zoé Greindl

Zoé joined the Garden group to complete her final year BSc Project. Her project involves research into the ring opening polymerisation of lactide and caprolactone by aluminium based salen catalysts.


In her spare time, Zoé loves travelling, cooking and spending time with her friends.

Leah Walker

Leah has graduated her MChem in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry. During her time here she completed a year abroad studying at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili during working on analytical techniques to determine pharmaceutical contaminants in biological matrices. She joined the Garden group for her final year project which includes investigating bimetallic catalysts for the polymerisation of various renewable monomers


Away from University, Leah enjoys going to the gym regularly, travelling and exploring new places and a pint of Guinness in the pub

Harvey Wood

Harvey has completed his BSc (hons) degree in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Harvey joined the Garden Group as part of his final year research project, studying Aluminium-based salen complexes and their role as catalysts in the polymerisation of lactic acid.

Outside of the lab Harvey enjoys playing squash, hockey and listening to music. 

Theona Sucu

Theona has finished her MChem in Chemistry. She spent a year in industry as an Analytical Co-Op, working on qualitative and quantitative analyses on polymer additives at Solvay at the R&I centre. Her project focused on the synthesis of polystyrene mimics from biorenewable feedstocks.


Outside of the lab, Theona enjoys travelling and tucking into the local delicacies of a destination, cooking and spending time with friends and family. 

Gabija Navickaite

Gabija Navickaite completed her MChem at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. She joined the Garden team after completing an industrial placement year with Cytec Solvay in Connecticut, CT, where she worked as a R&D chemist with hydroxamated polyacrylamide flocculants for the Bayer process. In her Master’s research project, she investigated into aluminium-based salen complexes as catalysts for the ring-opening copolymerisation of various monomers with carbon dioxide.


Her favourite free-time hobbies are yoga, good food and road trips.

Emma Stirling

Emma has completed her final year research project with the Garden group as part of her MChem at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. During her degree Emma was also able to experience a year abroad in Lille, France where she worked with Prof. Marc Visseaux and Dr. Yohan Champouret on the copolymerisation of polyesters with rare earth complexes. Her masters research project involved the synthesis of aluminium salen complexes for the polymerisation of various monomers. 


In her free time, Emma enjoys going to the pub, working on her hockey skills and occasionally the gym.

PGT students

Jiayi Yuan

Jiayi grew up in Shanghai, China and obtained her bachelor’s degree of engineering from East China University of science and technology. Being greatly interested in catalysis, Jiayi decided to join the Garden group to complete her PGT summer research project. Her project focused on the synthesis catalysts for PLA ring-opening polymerisation. In her spare time, Jiayi enjoys travelling, reading and is crazy about pets.

George Rudman

George graduated with a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Loughborough University in June 2020. In his third year, he spent a year in industry at AkzoNobel working on the development of polymer crosslinking technologies. He started as a PGT student on the Materials Chemistry course at the University of Edinburgh in September 2020 and joined the Garden group to work on his MSc project, which involves the synthesis of monometallic Zn and Cu salen complexes as catalysts for the ring-opening (co)polymerisation of lactide. George is a keen runner, competing for the university and his home athletics club in cross country, track and road races across the UK. 

Mengfan He

Mengfan completed his MSc in Material Chemistry in 2020 from the University of Edinburgh. He finished the Master project which focused on synthesis and characterisation of salen-derived zinc complexes, and really enjoyed a lovely period time in the Garden group. To be a gift, he designed a logo for the group. Now he is continuing for the PhD at the University of St Andrews to research on Organic Fluorine Chemistry.

Mengfan is keen on painting, art design, visiting the cinema and swimming in his spare time.

Jibing Sheng

Jibing Sheng completed his BSc in Polymer Materials in 2017 from Shanghai University. There is a sense of adventure in his spirit and that drove him to the University of Edinburgh where he finished his MSc degree in Materials Chemistry. From June to August in 2018, he spent an enjoyable time with Jenni’s Group. His project was to prepare an aluminium-coordinated salen ligand bearing quaternary ammonium groups for synthesizing stereoselective polylactide acid (PLA).


Jibing is a fan of classical guitar and likes to play football, basketball and PC games in his spare time.

Jane Panisanun Kulvaranon

Jane obtained her BSc degree in chemistry from Mahidol University International College in Thailand. She decided to pursue her Master's Degree in Materials Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. She joined the Garden Group in summer 2017 for her PGT research project, which was based on the design, synthesis and characterisation of multifunctional salen ligands.

Jane is a trained pianist and also enjoys playing golf in her free time.

Karen Radetzky

Karen graduated from Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany with her BSc in 2022 and completed her postgraduate degree in Materials Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh where she joined the Garden Group for her dissertation work. Her thesis investigated the influence of monomer sterics on the sequential structure of copolymers. In her free time Karen enjoys reading, playing volleyball, and climbing.

Visiting students

Maja Więzik

Maja joined the Garden group as an undergraduate Chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh after finishing her 3rd year. She secured funding through the prestigious Afton Summer Internship and joined the team to work with Eszter on a collaborative project between the Garden and Lusby groups, applying supramolecular cages as catalysts for polymer synthesis. In her free time, Maja enjoys reading and hiking.

Charlotte Pierra

Charlotte joined the Garden Group in May 2017 after completing her first year of engineering school in Materials Sciences at the Polytech Grenoble in France. She spent three months investigating the aluminium catalysed cationic polymerisation of ethyl vinyl ether.

Charlotte is a keen athlete, she practices competitive horse riding and also skiing in winter. During her spare time in Edinburgh, she loved exploring Scotland and enjoyed discovering a new way of life, new habits and new customs.

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