Madeleine Taylor

Working with miniscule magnets

BSc Honours student, Chemistry
College of Sciences and Engineering,
University of Tasmania

I was always a curious and inquisitive person. I enjoyed discovering things and solving puzzles, and in chemistry you get to do these things and more. When I was young, I was fascinated by shows like Backyard Science and Mythbusters, and in high school the chemistry classes intrigued me. In college and my first few years of uni I was initially taken by the biological sciences, however by the end of my studies, chemistry was what I wanted to do. The fascination of watching things react before your eyes, and the problem-solving skills needed to overcome challenges convinced me that chemistry was right for me.

The chemistry I work on involves the synthesis (making) and study of magnetic materials. Magnets come in all shapes and sizes, and one example many would be familiar with is the humble fridge magnet. Imagine if you had a fridge magnet and cut it in half- it would still be a magnet, right? Now what if we kept cutting it in half. There would be a point where we wouldn’t have a knife small enough. Smaller magnets do exist; however, we have to make these from the atoms up. This is where I come in- I make chemicals which are magnetic on a microscopic level. These magnets can be used in technology, including the development of next generation computers.

Synthetic chemistry can involve many steps, and along the way I get to grow pretty crystals and watch as things react and change colour. Watching this chemistry happen brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction, and I hope through YTS I can inspire some of you to pursue chemistry and appreciate this enjoyment.