Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research & Innovation

Professor Anita Maguire, Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Professor Anita Maguire, Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

College: Science, Engineering & Food Science / Medicine & Health

School: Chemistry/Pharmacy (Chair of Pharmaceutical Chemistry)

Research Interests: Synthetic and Mechanistics Aspects of Organic Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry - Synthesis of Bioactive Compounds, Use of Continuous Flow Processing to Enhance Synthetic Transformations, Crystal engineering

IRIS profile:

What first attracted you to your academic discipline?

An inspiring, enthusiastic Chemistry teacher at second level was a key factor initially, which was then reinforced by a tremendous academic mentor, who later became my PhD supervisor and lifelong mentor.

How were you drawn to your current research interests?

Research in synthetic organic chemistry requires a unique blend of scientific logic and creativity.  Being the first person to design and synthesise a compound is very rewarding, particularly if the synthesis is a challenging one.  The importance of creating safe and efficient methods for the synthesis of compounds with pharmaceutical application is a key driver.  It is very rewarding to see chemistry originally discovered in a lab transferred to large scale industrial application.

What professional achievements do you consider particularly rewarding?

Leading a research team which has made a number of important contributions especially in asymmetric synthesis - the gentle art of constructing selectively "left and right handed forms of molecules", which is particularly important for pharmaceutical application.

Contributing to the development of research policy at national level especially in the area of engagement at the industry-academic interface.

Academic leadership - as Head of School in both Chemistry and Pharmacy and more recently as Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI).

Effective long term collaborative partnership with enterprise.

Involvement in the establishment of the School of Pharmacy and the design of the Cavanagh Pharmacy Building.

Have you had professional role models? What impact did they have on you?

I have learnt from so many people throughout my career.  The wisdom of others should never be underestimated.  Something new to learn every day.

What aspects of your work do you find most rewarding?

Watching the early career researchers who have worked in my team, completed PhDs, and learnt the skills of synthetic chemistry, proceed to develop exciting career in the pharmaceutical industry is the most rewarding aspect of my work.  I have been fortunate to have worked with over 80 tremendous chemists, each of whom have enriched my insight into Chemistry, both experimentally and theoretically, in their own way.

Any details you wish to share about how being female has impacted upon your career (positively or negatively)?

In a discipline with relatively few women, people remember you much more than they would otherwise, which can be advantageous.  The need for gender balance on boards etc. brings opportunities - the challenge is carving out the time to participate.

Academic careers present specific challenges in achieving balance, whether between research, teaching and administration, or in work/life balance. What advice might you give a student/younger colleague/your 18-year old self?

Balancing the various priorities at work and outside of work is always a challenge - each day brings its own blend.  My philosophy is to prioritise whatever is the most important at any time, and try to avoid worrying about the things I can't get around to.  It is amazing what can be achieved in 10 minutes if that is the only time available.  Key to sucess is resilience and determination.  One particular outcome took me over 20 years but it was worth the wait.

Athena SWAN

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