By Ane Valera
I am Ane, I am a biochemist and I ended up in Scotland by chance.
During the last year of my degree, I had the most amazing Pharmacology and Toxicology teacher I could wish for and because of the way she taught that subject, I realized that I wanted to do research on drug discovery to treat real-life diseases. More specifically, drugs to treat Neglected diseases like Malaria, Ebola… And help people from underdeveloped countries.
When I finished those projects, I wanted to continue helping people and/or the planet with the knowledge I gained during university and that is how I met my actual Ph.D. project. My project is focused on developing an eco-friendly way to produce polymer (methacrylate) that is widely used in our daily lives, but so far, the process to produce this polymer involves very environmentally toxic reagents in industrial protocols. And Scotland, more precisely Aberdeen, was the place to perform my experiments.
The way to produce this eco-friendlier polymer is by using bacteria as tiny polymer-producing factories which are genetically modified for this purpose. There are a lot of approaches to solving these toxicity problems, but the method we are developing in our laboratory is a new way toward this “greener” production protocol. If this protocol is patented, industries can opt to reduce the usage of hazardous chemicals and decrease waste towards a more sustainable overall process.
Transitioning from a traditional and chemical to a biosynthetic route is a long and multifactorial journey, but many compounds are under research to meet Net Zero values for 2050. Ongoing research or the obtained results can be found on industries’ websites or on researchers’ papers published on public access databases such as PubMed.
Research is a fascinating career and as with every other job, it has its up and downs and it is a trial-error loop where erratic experiments are necessary as will teach you which way you shouldn’t keep going. On the other hand, you know that with your job, you are helping society to have more knowledge about a specific subject, unrevealing the unknown.
I strongly believe that there are no exact words to define a researcher. All of us are passionate about what we do, we decided to conduct a Ph.D. to continue exploring and showing the world the results we generate in our labs. If any of the words from this text has captured your attention, you are a perfect researcher candidate, just work your way towards it studying some STEM subjects with perseverance and enthusiasm and you’ll be halfway.