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What’s your professional background and how did you come to work at Diamond?
I trained as a Pharmacist in Singapore and went on to pursue a more research-oriented discipline in pharmaceutical chemistry at Bath University. After a brief return to Singapore where I continued as a Pharmacist both in the retail and hospital sectors, I chose to further my research interests with a PhD programme. I was offered a scholarship with what is now the UCL School of Pharmacy, and began my research into peptide synthesis and designing drug delivery systems.
My interest in drug design, discovery, delivery and development has always stayed with me. It was also during the course of my research career at the Pasteur Institute in France, Antisoma Ltd, and King’s College London working on peptides in cancer research, that I became more involved in structural characterisation of biomolecules using spectroscopic techniques. Acquiring all of these different experiences reinforced my acute interest in drug discovery and development programmes, especially in the field of drug delivery and formulation, where my collaborator and I were awarded a KCL Seed Funding grant to pursue proof of concept on a novel delivery system whilst running the University of London facility for chiroptical spectroscopy. During this time, the opportunity arose to join Diamond as a beamline scientist.
What do you do here and how does your experience help?
As a senior beamline scientist on the B23 beamline, my previous experience of running the London University facility in a similar group of the scientific community was certainly useful, and I do expand this experience in my work here at Diamond. I have always been interested in how to exploit further the beamline techniques for new applications and methods in molecular structural characterisation. Finding new methods or applications or using B23 and imparting these findings to the research community, who then go ahead to use them to further their research, is very satisfying. The research community that comes to B23 is so diverse, from structural biologists to biotechnologists, physicists and drug discovery groups to material scientists and toxicologists. This diversity has given me a great chance to learn something new every time, and has allowed me to look at the project from a different perspective. This approach has always been welcomed from the users and my collaborators coming to the beamline.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
The diversity of both the people working at Diamond and the users. Users appreciate my technical and scientific contributions during and after their visit to the beamline, and the projects that come to the beamline are certainly a fantastic way to sharpen my soft skills. I also enjoy keeping up with the technical challenges, and the process of finding a solution working in the diverse research fields that come my way is no easy task. It’s challenging, but who doesn’t like a challenge?
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in your field?
I would recommend seeking out training or internship programmes that can give a practical experience of the area. There are also exchange or taster programmes around, which will allow those interested to attach themselves to an institution for a short period of time to gain experience. This gives an insight into whether it really is a field one would like to pursue.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
Projects at Diamond’s Beamline - B23 are very diverse, which make them very interesting spanning from optoelectronic materials to proteins and small molecules for drug discovery therapeutics. Even more exciting are the research disciplines of the Life Sciences projects such as Cancer and Leukaemia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Catalysis. However I have active collaboration in Leukaemia research with Users from Kent University and in Alzheimer’s research with a User group from Padova University in Italy. Also one of the most interesting project is using the high throughput-CD (HTCD), Diamond’s B23 unique and only facility in the world with a group from Lancaster University screening the interaction properties of a large number of compounds with the tau protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease (Study shows asthma drug salbutamol's potential as Alzheimer's treatment (medicalxpress.com). Based on the screening study, the Asthma drug Salbutamol was found to be a potential candidate to combat the Alzheimer’s disease.
What makes Diamond different from other organisations that you could work for?
The diversity of the staff at Diamond and the interaction in different fields from science to engineering, finance, communication and soft facility team with the common objective of making Diamond a cutting-edge facility by helping and assisting the users towards their scientific research goals. The opportunities to be involved and contribute to users research and see first-hand the results obtained with state-of-the-art beamline technology at Diamond is very exciting and rewarding.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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