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The Faculty holds the Athena SWAN Bronze Award which recognises our commitment to providing equality for women in mathematics and science

Giorgia Magnatti
PhD Student
School of Chemistry

Background of academic life and PhD research
Giorgia completed a BSc in 2005 and MSc in 2008 in chemistry at the University “La Sapienza” of Rome in Italy, with a first-class honours degree. During her MSc she was awarded with an Erasmus scholarship (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) which allowed her to study for four months at the University Joseph Fourier of Grenoble (France). At the end of the MSc she was awarded the Leonardo Scholarship, which funded a six months placement at the neuro-pharmaceutical company Noscira, in Tres Cantos Madrid. During the placement she worked in the drug discovery department of the company and contributed to developing a new in parallel synthesis for inhibitors of the protein BACE-1, which plays a key role in the Alzheimer’s disease. 

After job experiences at Johnson & Johnson Medical and at Procter & Gamble in Rome, she moved to England in December 2010 to start a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Leeds. Her PhD project concentrates on the field of drug discovery and was directed to develop a new approach to identify inhibitors for biological target. In particular the protein BACE-1 was chosen as a target to explore the approach. The PhD project consists of designing novel potential inhibitors of the protein BACE-1 via computational tools, then in preparing a focused family of potential inhibitors in the chemistry laboratory and in evaluating the biological activity against the protein BACE-1.

Deciding to do a PhD  
Giorgia’s decision to start a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry was driven by the possibility to start a research project related to the Alzheimer’s disease on her own. Her PhD was funded by the Emma & Leslie Reid scholarship, which is reserved for research projects related to heart and brain disease. Giorgia’s decision was also encouraged by the possibility to explore career opportunities in the UK.

Most enjoyable thing about doing a PhD at Leeds
During her PhD, Giorgia enjoyed taking part in conferences and in activities of public engagement. The University of Leeds provides a range of opportunities to bring science outside the laboratory and share research experience with audience of experts and non-experts. Each year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities are advertised to meet pupils in schools and to involve them in scientific activities. The Headstart Summer School in Chemistry is also run every year at the University of Leeds; hosting a group of 30 students of 17 years old for three days. Giorgia took part in both this kind of activities, enjoying interactions with younger students.

Greatest academic achievement
Giorgia greatest academic achievement was being awarded second prize for a poster presentation at the National Symposium for Postgraduates of the Bio-organic Division organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Opportunity to visit the Parliament
Giorgia was very proud to be short-listed at national level to present her project at the House of Common in occasion of the annual event “SET for Britain”. She felt honoured to be in such fascinating and prestigious venue. She found the atmosphere very friendly, MPs were genuinely interested in the research projects presented and she had the opportunity to meet the president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Lesley Yellowlees. Overall it was an exciting and unique experience.

Ambition/expectation for the future 
Giorgia’s ambition is to build a successful career in the field of scientific communications or of knowledge transfer, where she could contribute in promoting science, supporting scientific discoveries, helping to launch new scientific technologies in the healthcare market. 

Possible obstacles 
Giorgia is not aware of specific barriers encountered by women in pursuing a career in these sectors. She believes that there are equal opportunities for both women and men in these sectors, but a major difficulty for women could be returning to work after maternity leave. From her experience the University of Leeds is constantly supporting women in science and takes care of equal opportunities. Although she did not feel to need a particular support in her scientific studies being a woman, she is aware of initiatives run by the Leeds WiSET (Women in Science Engineering and Technology) network, such as The First Wednesday Club and personal development for Women.