Hamish Toop

(Chemistry PhD student)

I completed my BSc. (Hons) at The University of Adelaide in 2009. At the end of my honours year I felt I had only scraped the surface of what there was to learn and what I could achieve. I was considering doing a PhD and was given the opportunity to visit UNSW. I was amazed by the facilities and support it had to offer – I was sold! I moved to Sydney and started my PhD at UNSW in 2010.

At high school, I was interested in biology. However, it wasn’t until university that I understood that the function of proteins and biological processes, things I had learnt about in school, could be influenced by small molecules, or drugs. The design and syntheses of molecules, which interact selectively with a given protein target to cause a positive effect, captured my imagination and offered a rewarding end goal. I therefore focussed my study in organic and medicinal chemistry.

I have been very lucky in that my PhD project has allowed me to work in two areas of the drug discovery process – both ‘lead identification’, where I am working on a total synthesis of a natural product which has been found to have interesting biological activity and ‘lead optimisation’, where I am working to determine the mechanism of action and develop a more potent and selective inhibitor of a known leukaemia drug lead. UNSW has been a really exciting environment to carry out my PhD. I am part of a very enthusiastic group and have had access to the latest equipment and expertise which has helped me to carry out my research.