Researcher in the Spotlight September 2015


annette dolphin

Annette C. Dolphin PhD, FMedSci, FRS, is a Professor of Pharmacology at the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, UCL.

What is your research about?

How calcium channels get to their site of action, how they function, how drugs interfere with their action, and how clinically relevant mutations and particular pathologies affect their function.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

I was always interested in Neuroscience, and the mechanism of action of drugs, although my degree was in Biochemistry, and this is reflected in the fact that I tend to concentrate on molecular mechanisms.

Why is your work important?

I am a great believer that fundamental discoveries in any basic science are important because they advance knowledge, and also because you can never tell where the next drug target might be.  However, our work also relates directly to mechanisms of chronic pain and drugs to treat this.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

Yes of course, all scientific study makes a difference to the sum of knowledge. Further to that, some of our work might lead to new drug targets or new ways of screening for particular drugs. In terms of drug discovery, I am involved in several projects that may lead to novel drugs in the future.

What does a typical day involve?

I try and spend a lot of time talking to my students and postdocs about their data. Other than that no day is the same. I spend my time writing papers and grants, helping with particular experiments, preparing and giving both teaching and research lectures, going to conferences, attending meetings about teaching and examining, marking essays and exams, attending meetings to promote equality and diversity at UCL, sitting on interview panels for external funders, reviewing grants and papers, making endless train/plane/hotel reservations and then making claims for the expenses, usually late. Unfortunately, despite the expansion of administrative staff in universities, most academics have no access to administrative help these days so much of our time seems to be taken up by this type of mundane task.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

Talking to students and postdocs about their work.

What do enjoy the least?

Teaching Committee meetings.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I’m a very private person

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Only do research if it really excites you.