Eleanor Eiffe

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am Drug Discovery (Chemistry) Program Manager at Novogen, an oncology-focused biotechnology company based in Sydney. I design anti-cancer drugs, manage their synthesis and screening, analyse structure-activity relationships, model drug-target interactions, maintain the compound database and make sure that new intellectual property is appropriately covered by patents.

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
I graduated from Flinders University in 2003 with a B.Tech. in Forensic and Analytical Chemistry and BSc. (Hons). It was my Honours project (Peptide-Appended Porphyrins as Anti-Cancer Agents) that got me hooked on the idea of using chemistry to solve biological problems. Shortly thereafter, I found a job as a research chemist at Novogen, where I was making isoflavonoid compounds for drug discovery efforts focused on oncology, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular indications. In 2009, I returned to university for a PhD in organic chemistry at UNSW, building on my work with isoflavones. In 2013, I started my current role, at a newly reorganised Novogen.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
I believe a good scientist needs to be driven by curiosity, backed up by the grit and determination to drill deep into a problem.

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
I remind myself that I’m at my most productive when I’m well rested, so I make it a priority to give my brain some time off after a strenuous day at work. Plus, I find that often the best way to solve a difficult problem is to step away from it for a while. Some of my most important ideas pop into my head when I’m running, on the train or otherwise not working!

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Get good at talking about your work. Learn to tailor your communication style for a variety of audiences: other chemists, scientists from other disciplines and non-scientists.

Is there anything you would like to share?
One of the things I love about working in drug development is how much I’ve been able to expand my knowledge base outside of my original specialisation. I started out with a synthetic organic chemistry background, but I’ve since learned a lot about intellectual property, GMP manufacturing, the biology of cancer and the regulatory requirements for getting a drug into the clinic. It’s also extremely fulfilling knowing that we’re working towards improving the lives of cancer patients.

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