tim sheedy


I can first remember when I decided to devote my life to science. I was in year 8 and thoroughly fascinated with the acids and bases module associated with the science syllabus. I remember asking myself questions such as “How does that work?” and “Why does something bubble the way it does?” the latter being in reference to vinegar reacting with bicarb soda. While at the time I had no idea I was going to end up doing chemistry for a living, I knew it was something I intended to pursue at a later point. After making the choice to major in chemistry in third year, I knew there was no turning back. Even a brief dalliance in teaching high school did not quench my desire to return to the field where I felt the most comfortable.

The field of work I currently investigating is the reactivation of older antibiotics such as chloramphenicol. With so much in the media about superbugs (bacteria which are resistant to multiple treatments), I thought it would be great to be able to contribute to a field where I could potentially lower antibiotic resistance in bacteria. My work is specifically focused round chloramphenicol itself, modifying its structure to allow potential activation once it is bound to an enzyme that would otherwise deactivate it. This is done by adding a linkage to the chloramphenicol portion and appending a metal-containing azamacrocycle unit to it. In the presence of the desired enzyme, the chloramphenicol will be sequestered and release the metal centre of the azamacrocycle unit to do become active and potentially do something good. While the mechanism of action is yet to be determined, the possibilities of these potential ‘double punch’ antibiotic conjugates are exciting. Just imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about antibiotic resistance ever again. I know I would love to be part of that.

The ever-changing face of science and the quest for knowledge is something that drives me to do my very best. The most important thing when undertaking a scientific endeavour is an open mind. And while doing chemistry is something that I love, learning and understanding the biological mechanisms of prodrugs in vivo, such as the ones I am currently investigating, is an amazing opportunity for me to move out of comfort zone and become not just a chemist, but a budding scientist as well.

As well as my research I am currently a laboratory demonstrator to both first year and second year (organic chemistry) students. This is great for me as it allows me the opportunity to pass on what I have learned over the years. I currently do this once a week in each laboratory and enjoy every minute of it.