University of Dundee

Lesley-Anne Pearson Q&A

Originally from Edinburgh, Lesley-Anne Pearson has been in Dundee for more than half her life, so feels like she is more from here than there! She is a Biologist working in the Drug Discovery Unit. Lesley-Anne has been conducting experiments investigating the actions of a particular SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) protein to aid the destruction of the virus.

What COVID-19 project are you working on?

I am currently working on one of the virus’s Non-Structural Proteins, called Nsp14 to try and find a small molecule that can inhibit it. Lay explanation – the virus injects its genetic material into the host cell and hijacks the host machinery so that it can multiply. The virus uses the enzyme Nsp14 to pin a little hat on it so that it looks the same as the cell’s own genetic material so that the cell doesn’t spot it. If we can stop it doing that, then the cell could spot the alien genetic material when it first gets in and destroy it.

What do you normally work on?

I work in the Innovative Targets Group, so there’s always a lot of variety. I work mainly with enzymes (although I have also worked on receptor projects), designing and running activity assays in order to identify small molecule inhibitors for use as potential drugs, or as tools to further interrogate the biology.

What’s your typical day?

At the minute I come into the lab in the morning to run some assay plates, check the machine and transfer data for analysis. Then I usually go home in the afternoon to try to do the data analysis there. Before Covid, I would go the gym first thing in the morning and then get into the office. I would normally be in the lab on and off most of the day, and write up/perform data analysis as I needed to.

What’s it like to work in the School of Life Sciences?

Our department is very interdisciplinary, and I shared an open office with biologists and chemists. There were multiple different group coffee mornings or shared breaks during the week so there was always the chance to sit down and catch up with colleagues. Now we have virtual coffees a few times a week so that we don’t lose touch. We also had our first ‘socially distanced’ coffee break this week, taking advantage of the nice weather to meet up outside the building, and it was really great to see people again.

Why did you come to Dundee?

I came to Dundee to study Biochemistry way back in 1997, because it had an excellent reputation for it, and I just never left!

What inspired you to become a scientist?

I wanted to be a biochemist when I was 12, so I have always loved it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! The fact that I get to study something I find genuinely interesting, and work in a lab, which I genuinely enjoy. I feel like I am helping with something like Covid, and even before that, just is amazing. I love my job.

Tell us a science fact

I love to compare the diagram of the Bacteriophage virus with the actual electron microscope image – it looks like a tiny alien ship!

What activities are you undertaking to de-stress?

I have taken up yoga and meditation. I’m also playing a lot of Animal Crossing [a social simulation video game]!

What can’t you wait to get back to once remaining lockdown measures are lifted?

I miss my daily 45 minutes on a cross trainer in the gym!

Quick fire questions:

  • Tea or Coffee? Coffee
  • Morning or Afternoon? Morning
  • Cat or Dog? Cat
  • Sough dough bread or banana bread? Sour dough