Women in STEM: Josie Gaynord

Josie Gaynord is PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry under the supervision of Professor David Spring. Her research looks at one of the biggest problems threatening global public health: antimicrobial resistance, or AMR.

My research sets out to develop new types of antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern at the moment which could threaten public health and food provision as bacteria can develop resistance quickly to common antibiotics. My research is looking at creating new antibiotics which combine old and new drugs with different mechanisms of actions to try and prevent resistance from developing.

As a chemist, I am constantly amazed by biology. Some of my research is looking into creating new drugs for blood-related diseases, and recently I was able to spend the day looking at blood cells through a microscope – this might not sound very interesting but being able to see it all with my own eyes was incredible and not something you’re able to do day-to-day as a chemist. I want to improve healthcare and this helps spur me on when nothing is working. I think it’s important for all scientists to keep in mind why we want to do our research, and why it is important. I hope my research will lead to at least one drug which is more effective, or has fewer side effects, that what is currently available to patients.

My work is laboratory-based – I spent the majority of my time synthesising biologically-relevant compounds. To test these, I visit groups or institutions that the Spring Group has collaborations with, including other departments, other universities and industrial pharmaceutical companies (all within Cambridge). I also have a collaborative research project with a group at the Technical University of Denmark, so have travelled there in the past. It’s always a great moment when I finally manage to make a compound that I’ve been working on for months. After trying again and again, it’s such a good feeling when the hard work pays off.

I am lucky that I am surrounded by amazing, inspirational and nurturing women who are there to help me and prove that women can succeed in STEMM. Having mentors and strong female friendships within your field is very important.

While you should always be ambitious and work towards your goals, remember to give back. Do every sort of outreach, public speaking and wider-engagement event that you are offered, because one of the most important things is representation. Subconsciously, young girls will never believe that they can be successful if women in STEMM are not visible.

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