An interview with Struan Bourke

Name: Struan BourkeStruanBourke

Current Job: PhD student

Scientific Discipline/Field: Conjugated Polymer nanoparticles (PhD), but previously worked in Porton Down on assay development and cardiovascular systems.

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G


What does your job involve?

So I work with small, novel particles that photoluminescence. These particles are composed of an organic molecule, known as a conjugated polymer , which were initially discovered due to their semiconducting properties. I study how different conditions affect the polymer and then translate that into nanoparticle synthesis for biological imaging. My day to day involves being in the lab most of the morning, then spending the afternoon analysing all the data.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I used to run a lab for a charity, and found that I wasn’t happy there. I missed doing research, learning something new or doing something that was novel. I recall always wanting to do a PhD but not feeling confident enough academically. I applied to a PhD which was more biological before this, which I unfortunately didn’t get as my chemistry wasn’t strong enough. So, this PhD came up, and I thought it was similar to my masters in London what’s the worst they can say. It all happened pretty quickly, got asked to have an interview and hit it off with my supervisor and just had a chat about science. I did have a second interview with the PGR co-ordinator who attempted to put me off, but I’m still there!

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

I tend to take a bit of a stand in supporting LGBT at work and university. Has it affected my career though? Not really, I think science tends to not care so much

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

I’ve always been open, though when I moved down first to Wiltshire I referred to boyfriends as ‘partner’ and ‘them’ before I got to know people. I’ve often had the ‘You don’t seem gay’, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have realised if you hadn’t told me’ chats before. There has only been two bad incidents, though mostly more to do with LGT matters rather than about me specifically. Overall, my experience has been pretty positive.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

I wanted to initially be a palaeontologist, so Jack Horner was a role model. I wanted to discover a new dinosaur, but then I became abit more realistic (and started scuba diving) and decided I wanted to be a marine biologist. I remember watching the documentaries by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and just thought it’d be a great job. Of course,I then found out that I wouldn’t actually get to scuba dive very much. So, this lead to my interest in biomedical engineering and the likes of Yuan-Cheng Fung and his research on tissue engineering and David Gow (who developed the Ilimb).

What are your plans for the future?

I’m not 100% sure. I enjoy research and academia, but with the issues relating to funding and job security it’ll be an interesting time. I would like to stay in academia, but it might just not work out that way.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Nope nothing!

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