Anne Canning

Favourite Thing: To grow cells on my polymers! I love watching how they change their behaviour in different environments.



2007-2011 University of Sheffield studied Chemistry with a year in Europe


ALevels (Chemistry, Geography, Biology and Maths). Obtained an MChem (Masters of Chemistry), spent 1 year studying at a University in Toulouse, France.

Work History:

Many non-science summer jobs: Sales assistant, waiter, receptionist, teaching English as a foreign language

Current Job:

I am currently a PhD student carrying out research in Regenerative medcine


University of Nottingham

Me and my work

Make polymer surfaces to grow cells on, to direct their behaviour

I am on  a PhD program, researching regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is a relatively new area which involves helping the body to fix itself through using clever materials such as polymers to replace damaged tissues/organs, and using stem cells (a type of cell that can turn into different cell types) as a drug to help overcome diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s.

My project involves making synthetic proteins and attaching them onto surfaces. The proteins I use react with enzymes that cells make and can change the material properties (known as a responsive material). We hope that the relationship between the cells and the surface will lead to interesting cell and material behaviour that could make them a good choice to help deliver drugs (cells) to parts of the body/coatings for tissue implants/ a way to detect a disease.

My Typical Day

Difficult to have a typical day…they’re normally organised by the success or failure of my experiments!

I normally try to spend most of my day doing experiments. This can be in the lab, in the fume hood doing ‘wet’ chemistry or working on analysis instruments to characterise the surfaces I make, to ensure I have what I think I do (which isn’t always the case)! Each experiment can take up to 3 days so I tend to set them up in the morning and monitor them throughout the day until they’re completed. Setting up experiments involves weighing out the right amount of chemicals, getting the right volumes, making sure I have all the equipment, that it’s clean and to the right settings. Most of my work needs to be done under Nitrogen and at 0 degrees C. Once I have everything it’s a case of mixing it together and letting the chemistry do its thing. I spend some of my day reading literature on my subject, sometimes I have meetings with my supervisors and colleagues and often I have deadlines to meet for reports, conferences or presentations.

What I'd do with the money

I’ve just been appointed a Chairperson of an outreach group for regenerative medicine. I’d put the money towards equipment to organise an after school science club for young people in the local area.

Regenerative medicine as a field isn’t always well represented in the media, so it’s really important that people know what the area is currently capable of and what are its aims. The outreach group was set up to help people of all ages have more access to the area. Last year we set up a blog where PhD students write about their research area which is really popular and we had a stall at the Big Bang fair in Birmingham (a massive science fair aimed at all ages but mainly young people).

I want to help younger people to learn about the area, so I would like to set up an after school science club for secondary school children in the area (Nottingham), where we carry out practical workshops with the students to teach them science outside of their school work, this will be run by PhD students like myself. The money will go towards the equipment and chemicals needed to carry out the activities throughout the year.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, determined and happy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Difficult question, I love anything rock/bluesy my current favourite The Black Keys, plus they’re awesome live.

What's your favourite food?

Definitely pizza

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Visited the Galapagos islands where I swam with sharks, sea lions, dolphins and came very close to Galapagos penguins!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I changed my mind many many times….Marine biologist/ zoologist, I was intent on becoming the next David Attenborough and presenting my own nature documentaries.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Only for being too talkative, never anything too serious

What was your favourite subject at school?

Chemistry/ Biology

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

Teach a 5 week course to 16-17 year olds on my PhD area, they asked me lots of questions I hadn’t thought to ask myself and gave me lots of ideas.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Lots of things I guess, I’ve always had great science teachers which makes a huge difference, although a particular memory is my friends dad exploding chemicals in the garden (I’m not sure what they were, but it looked pretty cool).

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

Have my own cake business

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

1) Be David Attenborough’s great niece so he could put in a good word for me at the BBC. 2) Be fluent in every language (perhaps slightly ambitious). 3) To be able to control the weather

Tell us a joke.

I’m reading a book on anti-gravity. I can’t put it down!

Other stuff

Work photos:

The fume hood where I mainly work:


The shelves of chemicals:


The surface analysis instrument that I spend ALOT of time on: