Favourite Thing: My favourite thing to do in science is putting on my lab coat and make chemicals in the lab. I like the hands on nature of it and the fact you have something to show for your efforts at the end. Doing chemistry is a lot like cooking except you can’t eat what you make at the end of it!
I went to school at Hall Cross School, Doncaster (1997-2002). I went to the University of Leeds to study for an MChem in Medicinal Chemistry which also included a year in industry working for GlaxoSmithKline (2002-2006). After that I completed a PhD at the University of York (2006-2010).
10 GCSE’s; 3 A levels (Chemistry, Maths, Physics); MChem in Medicinal Chemistry; PhD in Chemistry
Working a factory and in a restaurant when I was at school and in the summers at University. After my PhD I became a Chemistry Teaching Fellow at the University of York and I now do the same job at Leed University.
Chemistry Teaching Fellow
School of Chemistry, University of Leeds
Me and my work
I also teach chemistry at Leeds University and I make and design new medicines
I spend most of my time teaching chemistry at the University of Leeds but my background is as a chemist designing and making new medicines. I’m still interested in this area and I work with Leeds undergraduates who do projects with me as part of their training.
Mother Nature is brilliant at making molecules that have shapes and arrangements of atoms that make good medicines. In fact most of the medicines we use are based on chemical structures found in natural compounds including of aspirin (headaches) and penicillin (antibiotics).
This is a YouTube video that I made to explain how a breast cancer medicine made by a sea sponge was discovered https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIM5YwN-ceA&feature=youtu.be
Most of the time, the plants or animals that make these compounds don’t make a lot of it, so my job as a chemist is to make large amounts of the substance so there’s enough to do further tests and treat people. I do this by taking simple building blocks of atoms and building the chemical structure until it matches the natural compound. If it sounds like Lego, that’s because it’s a lot like Lego!
I worked on a cancer research project making a compound that a sea sponge made which was really active against all types of cancer. I am working with other scientists on this and together we’ve made most of the building blocks so far – we just need to join them together now.
I’m also starting a new project where I’m trying to copy the way nature makes these types of molecules which it does in two steps: step 1 – make the carbon skeletons; step 2 – add oxygens and nitrogens. This will hopefully lead to new molecules with weird and wonderful shapes which could be used for a range of diseases.
My Typical Day
Teach students, mark their work, work with project students
The amount I teach in a day varies but I plan my lectures or tutorials in advance. I sometime will go and supervise students in our labs who are training how to carry out experiments. If I have any work to mark, I’ll also do that.
In between teaching I fit in the time to work on my research. I’ll talk to my project students, find out what’s happened and we share ideas of what to do next with the projects. As well as being used to discover new medicines, these projects are really important for training new scientists who will becomes experts in discovery medicine. I find this part just as rewarding as the project themselves.
What I'd do with the money
I’d love to use the money to get young people interested in careers in sciences, especially from less fortunate backgrounds.
I’d like to use the money to visit schools. Tell them about the what amazing things they could do with qualifications in science and give them a chance to do some experiments.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
friendly, fun, sporty
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
white water rafting in crocodile-infested waters (very scary)
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
rarely, but sometimes I got told off for talking too much
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
create a medicine to treat heart disease
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
my chemistry teachers at A level were brilliant. I wouldn’t be the person I am without them
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Would love to have been a footballer. I would probably an accountant though…..
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) have more money; 2) stop my hair from falling out; 3) world peace
Tell us a joke.
What did the other atoms say when they found out oxygen and magnesium were going out? OMg!