International Day of Women and Girls in Science - Dr Gemma McKenzie

International Day of Women and Girls in Science International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Feb 10, 2022

To mark the 7th International Day of Women and Girls in Science we would like to introduce you to two members of our team who look after customers in the brewing and beverage sector.

This year's theme, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us, is particularly suited to Gemma and Nastasia who regularly review and optimize customers' hygiene protocols to ensure they are minimizing water consumption and recommend solutions for water reuse and treatment requirements throughout the production plant


gemma mckenzie

Dr Gemma McKenzie | Key Account Manager, Food & Beverage, UK.


What did you study?


MSci Chemistry, University of Strathclyde and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Inorganic Chemistry, University of Strathclyde. 


My PhD focused on research into homo- and heterometallic alkali metal amide chemistry, specifically developing this chemistry to incorporate enantiopure ligands. Bimetallic alkali metal magnesium (or zinc) reagents often exhibit a unique ‘synergic’ chemistry which cannot be replicated by either monometallic component on its own, and thus the design and synthesis of a variety of novel homo- and heterometallic alkali/alkaline earth/zinc alkyl/amide complexes was paramount in order to better understand the complexities of reactions involving synergistic mixtures of these reagents.


I expanded the concept of ‘inverse crown chemistry’ to include anionic inverse crown ethers, and on developing this chemistry further, I also synthesised and characterised a series of novel complexes which can be considered as belonging to a new class of complexes called metal anionic crowns (MACs ‒ complexes in which a halide ion has been captured within a metal/amide ring). 


Various aspects of my research have been published in high-impact journals (9 publications in total); the proudest of which can be viewed in Angewandte Chemie International Edition by following the link below:


What was your favourite subject at school?


English. I was fascinated by the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller which we read as part of our Higher studies. Of course, being Scottish, Macbeth was part of our Standard Grade studies, however, I much preferred Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling which was part of the take-home to read selection (before the books really hit off and there was only one copy in the school).


What makes you most excited about working with this company?


No two days are the same and every day is a school day. I like supporting customers and employees in achieving solutions. It’s very multi-tasked, which being of an analytical mind, I feel I thrive on.


How did you end up here? Why did you become a scientist? What drew you to this field? 


Growing up I wanted to be a make-up artist. This turned into making up the dead as I watched Silent Witness with Amanda Burton as Professor Sam Ryan and pathology was my then chosen career path. In my 4th year of High School I carried out a week’s work placement within the Pathology lab of the then Law Hospital and it wasn’t that exciting. 


I widened my options by focusing on gaining the grades to study Chemistry at University, focusing on courses that provided an element of Forensic Science. Again, TV did not reflect reality and it was nothing like CSI with sunglass-wearing Lieutenant Horatio (he wears them so well!) to help you out.


It was Dr Charlie O’Hara, a new Inorganic Lecturer, and Dr David Armstrong, a characteristic Senior Lecturer, whose enthusiasm for Inorganic Chemistry meant I really enjoyed studying this area of Chemistry. With a little persuasion from my best friend at university, Inorganic Chemistry was eventually my chosen area of study for my PhD under Dr. Charlie O’Hara. The fact I worked with air-sensitive material which could go ‘bang’ any minute kept the adrenaline running and luckily I never had any ‘bangs’ other than when disposing of starting materials in a controlled manner which was a fireworks display in a basin in a fume cupboard.


Hear from another member of our team, Nastasia Ramsamy, and find out about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.