Catherine Alder

I am a passionate research scientist with 18 years’ experience as a synthetic chemist with a tenacious attitude to problem solving and using technology to the maximum to achieve my objectives.

In particular, my aim is to progress with a career in chemistry and influence changes in working practices within the industry, either through utilizing new technology or Green Chemistry (employing sustainable methods and reducing the impact on the environment) and as such, have become a recognised technology expert in GSK Chemistry.

My interest in technology was ignited very early in my career when I completed a year in industry during my MChem Chemistry Degree at GSK Stevenage. During this placement year, I was part of a team which tested and designed new tools to improve our ways of working. I absolutely loved this experience and it crystallised my thinking around the direction my future career. Therefore, with a first-class degree in hand, I decided to join the pharmaceutical industry and secured a medicinal chemistry role at Merck, Sharpe and Dohme in Harlow. In 2006, I joined GSK as a research chemist and have enjoyed a highly fulfilling role ever since, primarily focusing on technology and Green Chemistry.

Key to my acquiring my technology skills and knowledge have been the secondments I have proactively sought. At present, I am on secondment in the GSK UK Discovery High Throughput team, where we conduct parallel chemistry in miniaturisation to find more efficient routes to potential medicines without a large impact of material being used and my overall objective is to take all of my learnings back to my medicinal chemistry team. However, I am also using the opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences with my new team colleagues.

Academic collaborations have also been vital in my personal development. In particular, I was an active participant in the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI): Chem21-Chemistry for the 21st Century. This allowed me to be exposed further to best practices and the latest developments in Synthetic Biochemistry (where enzymes are used to effect chemical transformations), Flow Chemistry, Photochemistry and Electrochemistry; all of these techniques are highly valuable tools to the medicinal chemist.

In 2016, I was delighted to be awarded my Charter Chemist status by the Royal Society of Chemistry. In addition, I have been an active STEM ambassador since 2014, and have participated in a number of external workshops including a summer school hosted by Professor Brian Cox on ‘Anti-Doping’. This inspirational event was offered to young people from three London schools near the Olympic stadium. I get an immense amount of personal satisfaction by being involved in these seminars and workshops and contribute to several activities in schools and a local scouting group to illustrate to young children the huge benefits that science and technology can bring to the world.