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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

I took both my BSc in Chemistry and PhD in heterocyclic synthesis at Bristol University, before moving to Brighton to work on Catalytic Antibodies. There I was appointed lecturer in analytical chemistry and began to work closely with the ageing group. The application of analytical and synthetic chemistry tools to solve the problems of human ageing has been the focus of my research over the last 15 years, culminating in the award of a Professorial chair in 2018. 

Research interests

My main area of research interest is in the chemistry of human ageing.  I use synthetic chemistry to design and evaluate compounds that intervene in and remediate age-related degenerative processes including cellular senescence. I also undertake bioanalytical evaluation of age related changes.

My research is focused on the chemical analysis of, and intervention in, ageing processes. Building on postdoctoral experience in mechanistic enzymology (where I discovered the first catalytic antibody lactamase generated in response to a synthetic compound), I developed the first mathematical model to explain why some, but not all, tissues in Werner’s Syndrome patients show a premature degenerative phenotype.  My work has since progressed to using experimental models to investigate putative causal mechanisms of ageing. 

My EPSRC/BBSRC SPARC funded project resulted in the first demonstration that age-related chemical changes in Drosophila are consistent with the “Green Theory” of ageing. More, recently we demonstrated that the highly-publicised postulated anti-ageing compound, Resveratrol, causes premature cellular senescence in primary cells in vitro.  

My latest research includes the development of a simple synthesis of novel “Resveralogues”. We are now evaluating our panel of over 40 compounds, in collaboration with multiple international laboratories, to determine the chemical features underlying the beneficial activities of stilbene molecules whilst abrogating the detrimental ones. The structure-activity relationships (SAR) we have developed are now informing our second generation compound designs.

Supervisory Interests

The effect of polyphenols and synthetic analogues of these on human ageing, with a particular focus on cellular senescence. Projects are offered in synthetic chemistry, cell biology and multidisciiplinary combinations of these.

Approach to teaching

As an analytical chemistry lecturer, I consider it my role to show students how to approach the subject, and to facilitate development of their chemical problem solving and numerical skills. My lectures are therefore a mixture of explanation of fundamental concepts, and workshop activities to practice applying the concepts. These are complemented by laboratory classes putting it all into practice. I introduce primary research articles from year 1 and expect the final year project students to undertake original research with me. 

I tell my students “In year 1 we show you the tools, in year 2 you have to choose how to use them, and in year 3 you apply them to something that has never been done before.”

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Bristol

1 Oct 199330 Sep 1996

Award Date: 1 Jul 1997

Bachelor, University of Bristol

1 Oct 198930 Jun 1992

Award Date: 4 Jul 1992

External positions

Chair Elect , Royal Society of Chemistry, Heads of CHemistry UK

1 Aug 20201 Aug 2021

Education Division Council Member, Royal Society of Chemistry

1 Aug 20191 Aug 2022

Treasurer, British Society for Research on Ageing

1 Aug 201631 Jul 2020


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