I completed a PhD at the University of Liverpool with Professor Rob Beynon where I studied the sweetest substance known which, surprisingly, is a protein called thaumatin. Protein research then brought me to Geosciences at the University of Glasgow where, as a NERC PDRA, I investigated proteins in brachiopod shells. As a Royal Society University Research Fellow I collaborated with Sir Alwyn Williams for many years, establishing my enthusiasm for modern and fossil biominerals. As well as research and teaching commitments at the University of Glasgow I held several leadership roles including Associate Dean for the Faculty of Physical Sciences Graduate School, International Lead for the College of Science & Engineering and Head of School of Geographical & Earth Sciences. I am a mentor for four early career scientists, a member of the peer review Colleges of EPSRC and NERC and external examiner for an MSci Geoscience degree at the University of Durham. On 1 March 2017 I joined the University of Stirling as Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences. In April 2017, I took up the post of Vice President (Physical Sciences) of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. From 13th April -13th August, I had a two part exhibition entitled ‘Shell meets Bone’ with artist Rachel Duckhouse (http://www.rachelduckhouse.co.uk/) at the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow as part of my Leverhulme collaboration with Rachel Duckhouse. (http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/visit/exhibitions/exhibitionprogramme/shellmeetsbone/). An article about the exhibition appeared in the Lancet Vol 390 July 1 2017, p. 19. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31671-9/fulltext
In 2008 I was awarded the Saltire Society's Scottish Science Award, in 2011 I was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and I am the 2017 recipient of the Schlumberger Medal from the Mineralogical Society.
As Professor of Biomineralisation, my research interests are broad and multi-disciplinary. These interests include extracting environmental information from shells and corals using isotopes and trace elements and determining how shells of economically important species such as mussels, will be affected by environmental change including ocean acidification. I am a long-standing advocate of multidisciplinary work, collaborating with Earth and Biological Scientists, Materials Scientists, Mathematicians, Isotope Geochemists, Chemists and Engineers, securing international funding as well as funding from four research councils: BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC and MRC. In my research I employ a vast range of techniques including scanning electron microscopy to quantify elemental and crystallographic data, synchrotron analyses for tomography and detailed chemistry, cell biology and protein characterisation to investigate biomineral formation.