Julia Griffen

Sorry to see kimberly go.. will miss her knowledge! :).. Looking forward to some super chats today guys :)

Favourite Thing: I like experimenting! Mixing chemicals and making new compounds



Flegg High School (1997 -2003), East Norfolk Sixth Form College (2003 – 2005)


University of York (2005 – 2009), Univeristy of Bath (2009 – Present)

Work History:

GlaxoSmithKline (2008-2009) year in industry


University of Bath

Current Job:

PhD student: Organic Chemist

Me and my work

I make new compounds to be tested as potential diabetes drugs.

I am a PhD student studying at Bath University;  which means I’ve completed a 4yr undergraduate degree in chemistry, as well as a 1yr postgraduate masters, and now at univeristy for another 3yrs after which I obtain a qualification and can be called Dr.Julia!! (as well as getting paid for it!)

I am a chemist, more specifically an organic chemist.

The compounds I make contain carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. I make new and novel compounds to be tested as potential diabetes drugs.

I do this by measuring, mixing and reacting different chemicals together, a bit like complicated cookery; and a bit like baking the perfect cake the ingredients, measures and cooking temperature need to be perfect to get the perfect cake. Or compounds in my case.

What’s really cool about my work is I use bacteria (small micro organisms)! You’d expect a biologist to use bacteria, not necessarily a chemist. This specific bacteria can convert cheap starting material into a really complex molecule which I can then make changes to by reacting it with different chemicals to change it into a biologically active molecule.

It is important to find new ways of making new medicines, my research hopes to do this!

My Typical Day

I spend most of my time in a lab experimenting! Mixing, reacting and analysing new compounds!

As an organic chemist most of my day is spent in a lab experimenting.

Alot of my work I carry out is dangerous and could severly impact my health therefore I take safety precautions…Most of my work is carried out in a fume hood, which extracts the air (a bit like a extractor fan over a cooker), so I dont breathe in any toxic chemicals or solvents. I wear rubber gloves, goggles and a lab coat at all times when I’m in the lab, (which is most of the day!) so chemicals can’t get on my clothes on my hands or in my eyes.

My typical experiment and day would include

  1. Putting on a experiment: weighing and measuring out all chemicals and mixing together
  2. Workin up an experiment: usually involves mixing it with water to ‘quench’ (stop the recation)
  3. Separation/purification: usually involves separating the reaction mixture by column chromotography or distilation
  4. Analysis: using analytical techniqes to work out what I’ve made! (hopefully the right thing!)

Lets looks at some of the stuff I use…


This is where I do most of my work in a fume hood. (fairly tidy today!). You can see the balloons full of Hydrogen gas for these reactions. A glass long tube at the back with pipes coming off is a vaccum and nitrogen line. line



This is the experimental set up for my bacteria, its basically a fermentation, very similar to how you’d make beer! Take a look inside: its messy and smells!!!



Most of my reactions need to be concentrated down.. we use a rotary evaporator for this:




p.s If you have any questions or would like to see more pics of what I do or the equipment that I use Just ask!! 🙂

What I'd do with the money

Working with local schools to bring them more exciting experiments!

I would like to bring more exciting experiments and practicals to schools, possibly take it to local science festivals and events.


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly Fun and Creative

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Foo Fighters… or anything good, esp if its live!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Galloping a race horse! Fast and Fun!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1. An ultimate holiday round the world adventure 2. I would like a tardis: time travel and teleportation in one!! 3. A fairy god mother! :)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A midwife or something to do with medicine… but I really liked chemistry after A level so carried on with that!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

kinda, but only over little things.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I like going to work in schools and work with children at science festivals.. Its great fun!

Tell us a joke.

Gold walked into a bar, the barman shouted ‘ey you over there!