Harriet Reid

Favourite Thing: I really enjoy designing new experiments, and testing if I can prove my ideas right or wrong. It’s often most interesting when I find out that I was wrong!



Windlesham House School, years 6-8; Bryanston School, years 9-11; Streatham and Clapham High School years 12-13.


I did a Bachelors degree (thats three years at university) in Chemistry

Work History:

I worked at a company in Boston USA for a year during my degree, designing new cancer drugs.

Current Job:

I’m a PhD student


University of Bristol

About Me

I’m a chemist, who loves baking, making pottery and scuba diving.

My Work

I design and test new proteins to try and build new medicines and materials.

I look at how nature has used proteins to build things (like viruses or the scaffolding inside your cells) and see if I can make similar structures. At the moment I am working with a group of people trying to make a medicine that would work like a virus but instead of making you ill it would make you better.

My Typical Day

I spend most of my day working in my lab, or at my computer trying to work out what my results mean!

I usually get in to work just before 9am, and go straight in to the lab to check on the instruments that have been running my experiments the previous night. If it’s all gone ok then I can carry on an set up some new experiments, but quite often something has gone wrong. Figuring out what went wrong can be easy and I can fix it in a few minutes, but sometimes something major goes wrong and we have to get an expert engineer to come and fix it.

Once I’ve got things in the lab sorted, I look at the data from my recent experiments, sometimes I have to re do them (scientists re do things ALOT, we need to be sure the results are correct and not just a fluke). Then it’s lunch time, I often go to a seminar (which is a talk where another scientist explains their work) after lunch.

Then I might have a meeting with my supervisor (A supervisor is a more experienced scientist who can help to guide your research) to discuss my latest results. Then I sit down to plan roughly what I want to get done in the next few days and book the instruments I need. Any time I have left, I usually spend analysing my results or making presentations to tell other scientist about my work. I usually head home around 5:30 or 6:00pm

What I'd do with the money

I would like to donate the money to the Lightyear foundation.

The Lightyear foundation work in Ghana, Africa, to promote science education. A lot of schools there find it difficult to teach science. The Lightyear foundation helps by providing science activities and support to teachers. To find out more why not check out their website

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Determined, Imaginative and Fun

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I don’t think I can pick a favourite, I like to listen to load to different types of music.

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Traveling the world, I love to scuba dive and I’ve been to some really cool places studying and trying to protect the oceans.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea at all!

Were you ever in trouble at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?

It was close between Art and Chemistry

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

During my degree I worked at a company that made cancer drugs, and we got to meet a woman who was probably still alive because to the drug we made.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Lots of people continue to inspire me to do science, the first was my GCSE chemistry teacher.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Umm, I thought about becoming a lawyer but who knows!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Infinite wishes obviously!

Tell us a joke.

I would tell you a joke but all the good ones argon

Other stuff

Work photos:

I work in a protein design lab. We come across proteins in all sorts of different places from food (eggs, meat, and cheese all have lots of protein) to spider webs or our own hair and nails. Proteins are REALLY small most are just a few nanometers across, you could fit 1000 across the tip of you hair! But they are made up of even smaller parts, amino acids, you can think of the protein as a bead necklace and the amino acids as the beads. When we design new proteins we have to decide the order of the amino acids then we load our design into the synthesiser and it makes them for us.


Once we have our new protein we need to see if it is what we designed. The shape of a protein is really important to how it works, so we look at that. This instrument is a circular dichroism spectrometer, it shines light through our protein, and can tell us somethings but not everything about the shape.


If we want to know the exact shape we have to make crystals of the protein. We use this robot to try lots of different conditions to make the crystals.


Once we have crystals we take them to the UK synchrotron, Diamond Light Source. Diamond is a huge doughnut shaped building, it shots electrons around in a circle almost as fast as light.


We can use the energy from the electrons to make x-rays that we shine through our protein. The x-rays are scattered by the protein, from the pattern we can work out the exact shape of the protein.