Get to know… your WRDTP reps – Erin Tait

Meet Erin – one of your student reps based at the University of Leeds!

Erin did her integrated master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Bristol. During her final year she undertook a project within the Galan group, where they focused on carbohydrate chemistry. This project inspired Erin to apply for a PhD project within a similar field at the University of Leeds. Erin is now in the first year of her PhD within the Zhou and Richter lab groups. She is researching multivalent glycan-lectin interactions which are often the first point of contact between immune cells and pathogens. A key example is the interaction of HIV-1 surface glycoproteins to the dendritic cell lectin DC-SIGN. HIV can exploit these interactions to avoid immune pathways and facilitate further infection, and so understanding these interactions is pivotal to developing therapeutics. Erin’s specific project is to use surface techniques such as QCM-D to probe the interactions of DC-SIGN with mannose-functionalised multivalent nanoparticles, as this system mimics that in biology. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of your science career so far? 

The most challenging aspect in my fledgling science career has definitely been making decisions. Choosing a university, project, and supervisor without intimate knowledge of the field is terrifying – luckily I think I made a good decision. 

What do you do when you’re not doing science? 

I’d like to think I am a good cook (perhaps related to lab skills?), and enjoy trying new recipes. Other than this, I spend a lot of time at music events.

Who has most influenced your career so far?

My A-level Chemistry teacher, and later my Master’s project supervisor really pushed me to the next stage of education, as it was apparent to them that I would be suited to a research career. 

Why did you want to become a rep?

I wanted to be more involved with my cohort, as for most of my PhD I will be on the other side of campus! Being a rep is a great opportunity to meet people from other fields and universities.

What has been your biggest lab mistake so far?

In my Master’s project, I had to do a lot of synthetic chemistry – and therefore lots of breakable things! It turns out a flask that’s been in an oil bath is very slippery…..

Do you currently have any future career plans?

No set plans at the moment as I have only just started! Right now I am really enjoying lab research and would love to carry on with that, but who knows what I’ll think in 3 years…

Coolest part of your PhD so far?

So far it has been hearing about everyone else’s cool projects, as I am definitely still in the learning phase!