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    Polly loves using science to solve problems

    March 07, 2016
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    Polly loves using science to solve problems

    3M product development engineer Polly Keen is an inventor at heart and loves nothing better than working on new creations in her spare time.

    Polly loves using science to solve problems

    3M product development engineer Polly Keen is an inventor at heart and loves nothing better than working on new creations in her spare time.

    Polly loves using science to solve problems

    3M product development engineer Polly Keen is an inventor at heart and loves nothing better than working on new creations in her spare time.

    • Photo of Polly Keen

      As a child growing up in Hampshire, Polly wanted to be a vet and says that her love of science came later.

      She said: "As a teenager, it was exciting to discover the Internet as a research tool and the more I found out about a subject, the more I liked to delve. I'm a pretty logical person and like proof of things and this, combined with my natural curiosity, is why science started to appeal to me more and more.

      "As I come from a family of dentists and engineers, a practical career seemed a natural option too, so although I enjoyed English and foreign languages at school, I chose to take double maths, physics and chemistry at A level."

      Polly went on to study natural sciences at the University of Cambridge, switching to chemical engineering in her second year.

      She said: "Studying natural sciences was a great way to keep my options open at first, but I soon realised that I enjoyed the application side of material science as I get great satisfaction from seeing a finished product at the end of a project and knowing that it will make a difference to someone's life."

      Polly followed her masters with a PhD in chemical engineering, specialising in micro encapsulation and researching new ways to coat enzymes and bacteria so they don't get destroyed in storage or by stomach acid.

      After she completed her PhD and with a patent for encapsulating enzymes used in laundry detergents filed, Polly started the search for a job.

      She said: "I wanted to work in research and development for a science company rather than stay in the world of academia, so a job advertised working for 3M's abrasives laboratory in Atherstone, Warwickshire, sparked my curiosity.

      "I love working in a lab, being able to bounce ideas around with fellow scientists and technical experts and collaborating with 3M colleagues from our research laboratories in the US and Germany. As well as applying my knowledge of encapsulation to abrasives and creating some interesting intellectual property that could be used in future products, I get to find solutions to real problems by working directly with our end customers, such as automotive manufacturing plants.

      "This means taking a product back to basics and analysing every stage in the production process to find ways to not only improve its performance, but hopefully make it more sustainable. I'm working on a project for a new abrasive at the moment and it will be very exciting when I see the product used in the industry for the first time."

      In her spare time, Polly is a keen sportswoman, taking part in cross country, track and road races. She also enjoys cycling to work, cooking and brewing her own beer. But she is perhaps happiest when she's inventing something – including recipes, beer flavours and running routes.

      Said Polly: "I love researching the latest technologies and looking at the patents that people have filed to get ideas for new inventions and have come up with a few myself, such as a cleaning device for muddy shoes.

      Thinking ahead to the future, Polly says she would love to work in new areas of science that have a practical application.

      She said: "There are lots of opportunities working for a large company like 3M and there are plenty of people willing to champion you and give you the encouragement you need to succeed."

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