Smashing Stereotypes – “Where I’m working and what I’m doing feels exciting”

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Dr Eric Harris shares his powerful motivation for becoming a scientist and what it means to him today.

Inspired to Pick a Science Career

Pursuing a career in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery came about because of a formative period in my teenage years where I came out as a gay man and became involved in the gay community. It became apparent to me that even in the early 2000s that HIV/AIDS was still a spectre that hung over people with plenty of horror stories, misinformation and fear.

The advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) fundamentally changed the HIV landscape with death rates dramatically reducing and instead of a death sentence becoming a chronic manageable illness. 

This had a profound effect on me as I had good friends now able to live with HIV and it really inspired me to pick that pathway in terms of a career in science.

I guess I was fortunate in that I had an aptitude for science from my school days and so when I started to understand the impact of drug research and development on treating HIV and AIDS it was fairly straightforward for me to study medicinal chemistry as an undergraduate. For me it’s always been about doing a job that I care about, has impact and provides a lot of value to both myself and others.

Originally from New Zealand, I moved to Australia for my PhD in Natural Product Synthesis which was a way to train in organic synthesis. It’s a good skill set that’s needed for drug design and development. I then really focused on chasing the career I wanted. Medicine had held some appeal, but I wanted to do something that helped many people, through new drugs and therapies, so thought it better to use my skills in research. 

"I found better opportunities in Europe"

There weren’t the same opportunities in New Zealand and Australia as there are in Europe, so I moved to Germany for a Post Doc role. From there I moved to the UK and began working for a CRO where most of my projects were oncology based.

Since joining Charnwood Discovery three years ago, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work in a field where we’re making a difference in terms of research. It massively motivates me to get out of bed in the morning and feel enthusiastic about my work – that feeling of doing something useful with my life. 

Also, I really appreciate the opportunities at Charnwood to influence the culture through groups such as the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group which I’m an active member of. 

Where I’m working and what I’m doing feels exciting so as long as that continues, I’m happy!

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