Elaine Duncan

Scientist, Charles River

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Science isn't always about what you know or learn from a book - It's a way of thinking creatively.

What do you do?

I'm an in vitro biologist for a drug discovery company. I design and run experiments to test thousands of compounds and identify molecules which could become medicines in the future.

Why did you choose this field?

Throughout school and university I was always interested in biology-based subjects, especially when there was a link between the course material and medicine. I did work experience in a hospital and didn't particularly enjoy direct patient contact, and I was much more interested in the science "behind the scenes." I am still motivated by helping people, so working in early stage drug discovery gives me a great balance between working to treat diseases without being a medical doctor.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I really enjoy doing STEM outreach work, and encouraging future generations to pursue scientific careers. When I started work in a large company, I was surprised we didn't already have a team of people regularly volunteering at schools and science festivals, so I took the initiative to set up the team myself. 6 months later, I had designed a mock high throughput screen and coordinated a team of colleagues to represent our company at a local science fair. We ran our experiment with around 250 children and got some really amazing feedback! I never would have thought that taking on a challenge like this would be something I could do, especially in the first year of my graduate career!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love solving problems and helping people! Knowing when I get to work I'll be troubleshooting and optimising my experiments so I have the best chance of finding cures to difficult diseases is so exciting!

Best advice for next generation?

Science isn't always about what you know or learn from a book - It's a way of thinking creatively and asking questions to come up with solutions to difficult problems. Be curious!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is you-er than you" - Dr Seuss

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