Ephemeral Ink is the online writing desk of Ryan S. McMullen, a PhD student in experimental physical chemistry at the University of Southern California. Born on the British island of Jersey off the coast of Normandy, Ryan completed his Master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Bristol in 2015.
His thesis was on how molecules trapped in weakly interacting solvent such as ‘liquid Teflon’ behave; this project was under the auspices of the legendary Mike Ashfold FRS, with day-to-day guidance by the equally gregarious Michael P. Grubb.
Poetry, the arts and creative writing are known areas of interest outside of his scientific routine, of which linking strange ideas has found an outlet: Ryan has taken up the task of writing research proposals in his first year as a PhD student for supervisor (and now Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics) Stephen E. Bradforth.
Being an island creature habituated to a semi-warm sea environment, five years near a muddy river and regular cold jogs lashed by Bristolian rains had taken its toll. In the autumn of 2014 it was decided that a journey to the United States was on the cards, a syncretism naturally married (without too much arguing) to the idea of frontier research.
In order to prepare for such a move, an additional year was spent in the Bristol dynamics group as a Research Associate following his Master’s degree, pursuing work on coaxing electrons from illuminated diamond, a complete and utter failure.
His toes betrayed the Atlantic, touching the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica for the first time in 2016. He started his PhD full time in June 2017.
Mere interest is of no use in scientific work, with obsession being the key driving force to running endless experiments. Ryan’s current work utilizes time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy of liquid jets to study sodium solutions of liquid ammonia: the compass needle of research is currently pointing towards hunting for the solvated bielectron and the relation to Birch reductions, although this is in its infancy.
Ephemeral Ink blog posts are a mixture of things as and when words need to be written. Due to the constraints of graduate life, there will be no regular weekly (or perhaps even monthly) posts, and indeed posts will never be posted for posting’s sake!
Los Angeles, February 2017
— Ephemeral Ink