Sam Lear

Had so much fun answering everybody's science questions!

Favourite Thing: I love when something works for the first time in a project that might have taken months or years of work up to that point. Science can take a long time but it’s very rewarding



Fallibroome High School (2000-2007); Durham University (2007-present)


MChem, MSc

Work History:

Current Job:

PhD Student


Durham University

Me and my work

I approach the problem of making proteins from a chemical perspective – by reacting together individual amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in a lab

Proteins (and shorter chains of amino acids called ‘peptides’) have many interesting roles living things. Making them in a lab is very useful, as often it’s only when you can change certain bits of the protein (such as swapping certain amino acids with others) that you can work out which parts of the protein’s structure are important.

I use chemical reactions to make peptides and proteins, which gives me complete control over their sequence and helps biologists to research them in more detail.

My Typical Day

Using a ‘synthesizer’ to join amino acids together

I spend a lot of time using a machine called a ‘synthesizer’ which can react amino acids together. There’s a picture of it below. I make up solutions of each amino acid and put them in each of the bottles you can see. Then I type in the sequence of the protein I want and the synthesizer can (hopefully!) make it for me. I have to be careful I don’t make any typos!

What I'd do with the money

I would like to spend the money on equipment for my university’s Science Outreach programme

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, inquisitive, perseverant

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Crystal Castles, Bjork, Hot Chip

What's your favourite food?

Erm, I think I have a Nando’s addiction…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to New York last summer, that was pretty amazing

What did you want to be after you left school?

I knew I always wanted to do science. I definitely made the right choice to do a PhD

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Erm, sometimes…

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I presented some research I’ve done at a conference in Holland last month. It’s great when other people are interested in your work

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve always been interested in science, but I did work experience at AstraZeneca when I was at school and it really convinced me it was what I wanted to do

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I would have studied music at university I think

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

That you vote for me! Also lots of amazing results in my PhD would be nice, and chocolate digestives (obviously)

Tell us a joke.

I would but all the best ones argon…

Other stuff

Work photos:

Me and the synthesizer!


Purifying the things I make using ‘liquid chromatography’