Dr Liz New
With her career in chemistry research taking her to the UK, the US and back to Australia, Dr Liz New has enjoyed the perks of her scientific research career. Now back working in the School of Chemistry at Sydney, her research focuses on developing chemical tools to allow us to understand biology.
“There is nothing quite like scientific research, where every day we can develop totally new technology, and discover new things about how systems work. Chemistry has the potential to contribute to all areas of scientific research and I am particularly interested in how it can help us understand biology,” says Liz.
“I was always interested in science and was fortunate enough to be involved with the Australian Science Olympiads when I was at high school, which really boosted my interest in chemistry. But it wasn't until I was studying a general science degree at university that I knew that chemistry was what I wanted to pursue.”
Liz completed her Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with first class Honours in chemistry at the University of Sydney and won the University Medal for her research on developing fluorescent analogues of the chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, to allow the drug’s behaviour in cells to be studied using fluorescence microscopy.
Following on from her Honours research success, Liz completed a Master of Science by research at the University of Sydney, continuing her work on cisplatin with Professor Trevor Hambley, the current Dean of Science. A PhD at the University of Durham in the UK followed, then a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley.
“My research career has given me great opportunities to live in different countries and to travel extensively to conferences. I’ve also used amazing equipment around the world,” says Liz.
“The friends I've made during my PhD and postdoc are scattered throughout the world, so there are always people to visit, wherever I travel.”
Her current research involves developing small molecules that can report on the redox (reduction-oxidation) state of cells, either for use in MRI studies or in microscopy. Many diseases are associated with oxidative stress, so developing ways to measure biological redox state will help to better understand these diseases and suggest ways to cure or treat them.
Liz enjoys the collegiality of working in research groups, where she is surrounded by other scientists working on their own independent projects that form part of a larger research goal together.
“Australia has strong capacity in scientific research. Australian scientists tend to be more innovative than in other countries, and are ready to find new ways to use new technology. A particular research strength in Australia is environmental science, including green chemistry,” said Liz.
“Scientific research allows you to make real contributions – whether they are physical technologies or advances in knowledge. A career in science gives you the unique opportunity to be curious and then use lots of different methods to answer those questions.”