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Spotlight on Dr Alice Pyne

13 December 2017

Dr Alice Pyne

This week the spotlight is on Dr Alice Pyne, a Research Fellow in Biophysics at the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Medical Research Council UK Research Innovation Rutherford Research Fellow, working at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in partnership with the John Innes Centre (Norwich), the Francis Crick Institute, (London) and Bruker (USA). I have been awarded funding by the Medical Research Council to develop new tools to aid in the development of new anti-cancer and antibiotic drugs. I am using microscope techniques that I have pioneered throughout my academic career to ‘photograph’ individual DNA molecules. I propose to ‘see’ how they interact with the molecular machinery in our body, which are the targets of major anti-cancer and antibiotic therapeutics, aiding in the development of novel pharmaceuticals. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I started at UCL as a PhD student in 2010. My PhD was a collaboration between UCL and the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, where I developed microscopy techniques and instruments to allow us to ‘photograph’ individual biomolecules, such as DNA, in liquid at sub-nanometre resolution. I then stayed on at UCL as an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow, and using these techniques, began my own research into how DNA topology affects gene expression.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In 2014 I published the work I remain most proud of, where I was able to see how the Watson-Crick double helix varies along an individual molecule of DNA. 

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Having obtained a wealth of ‘photos’ of biomolecules in my career to date, I am now writing code to perform automated image recognition on these ‘photos’, pulling out the underlying biophysical data. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I enjoy a huge range of music from classical to electronic and it would be a hard pushed to name a favourite album. At the moment I’m listening to the artist Shallou.

I’m not a big film buff, but love the film ‘Untouchable.’

I grew up loving Agatha Christie’s novels and still enjoy devouring crime and thriller novels.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

*insert arbitrary cheese joke*

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Any of the chefs from the Great British Menu, but they’d have to cook with/for me too. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Listen more, read more.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am a very enthusiastic novice road cyclist.

What is your favourite place?

Underwater (scuba diving)