PROJECT: Engineering Enzymes for Animal Nutrition

SUPERVISOR: Andrew Hemmings

While I was at school I was adamant on studying pharmacy at university but after missing the required A-level grades I ended up on a BSc Biological and Medicinal Chemistry degree at UEA following the science foundation year, and then transferred onto the MChem degree. In my penultimate year I worked on a summer project at the John Innes Centre in the molecular microbiology department (Wilkinson group) as I knew I’d need lab/research skills for the next stages of my academic journey and I was particularly interested in natural products biosynthesis.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue this project as my MChem final year research project, which paved the way for my successful application to study a PhD in chemistry at the University of Cambridge. My project there was based on aminoglycoside antibiotic biosynthesis, but due to a number of factors this didn’t work out and I left after two years with a CPGS. I then worked as a pharmacy dispenser for a year in Cambridge which reignited my early ambition to pursue a career in pharmacy. I had a quarter life crisis trying to formulate a plan to raise enough money for the fees to study a second undergraduate degree but in the end I realised I yearned to be back in research and academia and felt that I was wasting my skills and qualifications gained over the years. One day, I was scrolling through job adverts whilst on a train and spotted a funded PhD position with one of the module organisers of my undergraduate degree. The application deadline was in just a few days from then but I felt like I had nothing to lose and was encouraged by the supervisor to apply – although I didn’t think I stood much of a chance! It was the best decision I’d ever made, and returning to UEA, I felt like I was back home.

I’m on a 4 year CASE DTP programme sponsored by AB Vista – an animal nutrition technology company – who I will be completing a three month internship with. The PhD project I am working on endeavours to address future food security challenges by bioengineering and/or bioprospecting novel classes of phytate-degrading enzymes for animal feed.

To enrich my research experience, I am a member of the UEA SCI PGR committee as one of the representatives for the School of Biological Sciences and I am an associate tutor in the Schools of Biological Sciences and Pharmacy. I am also a PGR peer mentor on the new PGR peer assisted learning scheme and I get involved with outreach activities where appropriate. This has had an enormous positive impact on my personal and professional development by increasing my confidence and communication skills. I feel like I have finally found my place, and am flourishing – and this wouldn’t be possible without all the diverse opportunities, training and the supportive atmosphere on offer here at the Norwich Research Park