After graduating from Edinburgh with an honours degree in biochemistry in 2011, I joined Dr Mitchell’s research group at St Andrews with a keen interest in enzymology and evolutionary genetics. It was also during the final year of my undergraduate degree that I discovered that I both enjoyed and had strengths in data analysis and informatics. My current research is focused on the mapping and reconstruction of the evolution of enzyme function via a combination of phylogenetics, chemoinformatics and structural biology. Of particular interest are the metallo-ß-lactamase enzymes, principal mediators of antibiotic resistance, and the nucleophillic halogenases, which use unusual chemistry in their synthesis of products of medical interest. By bringing together structural enzymology and evolutionary biology in my research, I hope gain insight into the evolution of function in medically relevant enzymes. Such understanding may be of use for future drug design efforts.
In addition to research, I have a keen interest in teaching and public engagement. I regularly demonstrate for undergraduate courses that cover a wide range of topics in evolutionary biology, bioinformatics and molecular biology. Within the local community, I have participated in outreach projects such as ‘Space School’ and ‘Chembus’, and recently gave a presentation to Thornton primary school, near Glenrothes, as to ‘how soap works’ and shared my experiences as a PhD student. An article was published in the University of St Andrews Postgraduate magazine (Feb 2012) in which I write about my experiences a highly engaging science and the media conference, organised by the charity ‘Sense about Science’ (article).
It is projects such as these which I think are key in the extension of the academic bubble to the wider public, something paramount to the future success of scientific research.