Name: Dr Anna Peacock
Age range: 31
Research institution: School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham
Research career length: 9 years
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: Birmingham, England
Brief summary of research: Chemistry
International Baccalaureate, The Netherlands
MChem, University of York
PhD in Design of osmium(II) arene anticancer complexes, University of Edinburgh
Postdoctoral Researcher in the design and study of de novo metallopeptides, University of Michigan, USA
Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Birmingham
Many university researchers combine their experimental work with teaching students. Anna Peacock draws on cutting-edge research that results in new molecules – research which she is then able to bring to life for her students in her role as lecturer.
My research sets out to develop new molecules with new and attractive properties that can be applied to a whole range of situations, including medicine and industrial manufacturing. We attempt to combine the best of biology with the best of chemistry in an effort to develop new biosensors, imaging agents, therapeutics or catalysts for future application in industry. So for example, biosensors can be used to read the genetic information stored in the sequence of DNA, while imaging agents can be used to tell doctors whether a growth is cancerous or not.
My main passion is for my research, and a large proportion of my time involves planning experimental work and managing and supervising PhD students and postdoctoral researchers who carry out the experiments. I then help them analyse and interpret results, which often leads to further experiments. I present research findings at national and international conferences and meetings and produce academic papers that are published in scientific journals for dissemination within the scientific community. I also lecture to chemistry undergraduates. We combine different styles of teaching including traditional lectures, workshops, small group tutorials and practical sessions in the laboratories to ensure our students have the best learning experience.
My father was a scientist working for the European Space Agency in the Netherlands and I am sure that this in some way influenced my decision to pursue a career in science. However, clearly my passion for the subject has always been a major driving force, and remains so – since there is nothing better than the high that accompanies an exciting scientific result or breakthrough, which I feel is the biggest perk of the job.
The universities in which I’ve chosen to study and work are all fantastic, with each having a strong research base. I got my first taste of bioinorganic chemistry as part of my final year MChem research project at the University of York. I then moved to the University of Edinburgh and Michigan respectively as I wanted to work with some of the top scientists in this field.
People often think of research as a solitary experience but our work is extremely collaborative and international. We often need to work with researchers from other disciplines such as biology or physics, and I personally believe that many of the breakthroughs of the future will be made at the interface of these different disciplines. My work takes me overseas a couple of times a year, including trips to Mexico, South Africa, USA, Greece and Italy. I was recently invited to take part in a Royal Society of Chemistry ‘roadshow’ that took place in India, where I got the opportunity to meet many interesting people. A conference in Granada in Spain last year also gave me the chance to visit the wonderful Alhambra palace.
Much of the joy of my research is in obtaining new scientific results working alongside talented PhD students. I especially find it rewarding seeing them develop, both personally and as independent scientists, and I know they will be able to do the same with the next generation of researchers. I hope to continue contributing to this process while I work my way through an academic career, which means becoming a senior lecturer or one day, maybe a professor.