University of Sussex (PhD, 2017-present); University of Strathclyde (MChem, 2011-2016); Perth High School (2005-2011); Aberdeen City Music School (2006-2007)
First Class (Hons) MChem Chemistry with Drug Discovery; Advanced Higher Chemistry, Mathematics and Music (AAA); Higher English, Classical Studies, Biology and Physics (AAAA); Grade 8 Violin and Piano
Chemistry Tutor (Brighton); Research intern, Corden Pharma (Switzerland); Chemistry Intern, Glasgow Science Centre
PhD Researcher and Doctoral Tutor, University of Sussex
Thesis title: Development of PRK2 chemical tools to probe cancer
Doctoral Tutor duties: teaching in undergraduate chemistry laboratory classes and tutorials, invigilating and marking exams, delivering science outreach/public engagement activities to the public.
Favourite thing to do in my job: Make molecules that have never existed before
Chemist and Theatre Fan
I am from Scotland but I currently live in Brighton by the beach! When I’m not working on my PhD in the chemistry lab, I enjoy running and going to the theatre. I work as a theatre critic occassionally meaning I get to review plays and musicals and interview famous actors. I also play the violin and the piano.
Helping to make better cancer drugs
I work in a drug discovery research group who try to help develop better medicines for diseases like cancer, anxiety, cystic fibrosis, depression, Alzheimers etc.
I spend time in the lab making new molecules called “chemical tools”. They aren’t drugs exactly but they look a lot like medicine molecules usually do. They are made in the early stages of a new medicine programme to help biologists work out if shutting down a particular process in our bodies using a drug is useful for treating a disease.
Our bodies are full of about 40,000 different enzymes/proteins which carry out various jobs in our bodies. Sometimes these proteins go rogue and need shut down by drug molecules. Drug molecules work by fitting into the enzyme, like a hand in a glove, and stop them from being able to do their usual drug. I am designing and making chemical tool molecules for a type of enzyme called a kinase, one that often goes a bit rogue in cancer cells.
These days we are trying to develop cancer drugs that only harm cancer cells and not healthy ones, like traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy do. That way we can hopefully have drugs with less side effects such as nausea and hair loss.
7 am get up and maybe go for a run
8.15 am get the bus to work
8.45-9 am arrive at work
Morning: work on chemistry reactions in lab or do office work at my desk
Lunch: enjoy some homemade soup and a little break
Afternoon: work on chemistry reactions in lab or do office work at my desk
6-6.30 pm go home
What I'd do with the prize money
Tell more people about chemistry and drug discovery
I currently run different talks about my work in drug discovery in schools and at science fairs where people get a chance to design their own drug molecule and learn about how medicines work. At the moment I use a paper-based molecule building set and it would be nice to upgrade to high quality molecular modelling sets so people get a real 3D idea of what drug molecules look like. I would also use the money to go on training courses to improve my craft in presenting live events as well as the quality of material I produce for my blog and instagram account thechemistryofaphd.com and @thechemistryofaphd respectively.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, imaginative, enthusiastic
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Make brand new drug-like molecules that WORK!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My chemistry teacher and friends who've been through cancer
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Once or twice
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I love people who are in musicals like Carrie Hope Fletcher
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Played in an orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Get better at getting up in the morning; run a marathon; finish my PhD!
Tell us a joke.
I'm not great at coming up with chemistry jokes. All the good ones Argon.