Glover becomes Scotland's chief scientific adviser.
Anne Glover already has plans for when she assumes the role of Scotland's chief scientific adviser next month. She wants science to become part of popular culture. “I'd like citizens to see that everything from probiotic foods to mobile phones is supplied by science,” she says.
Her varied background, including a spell in business, should help her in that quest. As a youngster, Glover's interests ranged from chemistry and astronomy through to biology. As an undergraduate, she spent a year studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, but switched her degree to the emerging field of biochemistry at the suggestion of her mentor. The move paid off and, after a PhD at the University of Cambridge, Glover found herself doing a postdoc in Aberdeen studying the genome of slime mould.
Her work with slime mould gave her valuable experience in molecular genetics and, after a year spent developing DNA sequencing techniques, Glover was granted a lectureship under the 'new blood' scheme. This UK-wide initiative sought to attract and keep young scientists in academia, largely by reducing their teaching load to allow them to focus on their research.
Glover's move into the world of commerce came about thanks to what she describes as her greatest achievement: genetically engineering microorganisms to make them environmental biosensors. Initially, this work was aimed at tracking the survival of genetically modified organisms released into the environment. “Once you release organisms in to the soil, it's hard to get them back,” she says. It was also used to assess whether genes were being exchanged between the modified organisms and the natural community.
To get this information, Glover needed a way of spotting when a modified gene was expressed. She hit upon the idea of modifying it so that it would glow in the dark when active. She later modified the technique so that this 'bioluminescence' occurred in response to changes in the environment, such as the presence of certain toxic compounds.
These biosensors brought out the entrepreneur in Glover and she set up Remedios as a spin-off from the University of Aberdeen to market the technology. In 2000, the industry and government group Biotech Scotland named Remedios as the nation's best new biotech company. Glover has since left the business, but true to her new role and vision, she encourages every scientist to think about the real-world, practical implications of their research.
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Gewin, V. Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser for Scotland. Nature 442, 326 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7100-326a