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Rachel Egan (she/her)

I did my undergraduate degree in chemistry at University College Dublin and following that came to Cambridge to begin my graduate studies in the field of semi-artificial photosynthesis under the supervision of Dr Jenny Zhang and Professor Erwin Reisner. I work with the photosynthetic microorganism cyanobacteria which are scalable, self-repairing and sustainable water oxidation catalysts that can be used in solar-powered technologies. These bacteria exhibit a phenomenon where electrons generated during photosynthesis are exported from the cell and thus can be collected using an electrode. Currently, it is difficult to efficiently wire cyanobacteria to electrodes, and one of the key reasons is due to poor interfacial charge transfer between the cells and electrode.

My work aims to artificially construct conductive matrices to surround the bacteria, entrap them on the electrode surface and boost charge transfer efficiency by forming a direct pathway for electrons to the electrode surface. In addition to trying to identify which polymeric structures are good wiring tools for these bacteria, my aim is to gain a mechanistic understanding of why a particular system is successful, to aid future design strategies. This involves characterising various polymer properties and probing the bacteria-polymer interface, using a variety of techniques including electrochemistry and SEM/STEM-EDS.

I was drawn to this project because I am interested in the development of sustainable technologies as alternatives to fossil fuels in the face of the climate crisis. I enjoy looking to nature for inspiration so this biohybrid project – in which the best aspects of the natural and synthetic world are combined, really appealed to me. I also enjoy the multi-disciplinary nature of my work which sits at the intersection of chemistry, biology, physics and materials science.  

Telephone number

01223 763137

Email address


Hughes Hall

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