Getting to Know-Laura Cleghorn

Head and shoulders shot of Laura who ahs shoulder length brown hair

Laura Cleghorn is the Portfolio Manager for the Tuberculosis Portfolio at the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, UK.

As Portfolio Manager Laura leads a drug discovery program focussed on identifying new chemical matter that can be progressed toward pre-clinical candidate selection. This work involves collaborating with multiple international partners to achieve our common goal. The DDU is a member of the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA), and the European Regime Accelerator for Tuberculosis (ERA4TB).

Laura is a medicinal chemist by training, she obtained a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry from the University of Edinburgh in 2001, worked at Organon Laboratories for a year before moving to the University of Leeds where she obtained a PhD in Organic Chemistry. In 2006 Laura joined the newly formed Drug Discovery Unit, initially working on Human African Trypanosomiasis, in 2013 she moved to the Tuberculosis group, where she became the Portfolio Manager in 2020. Laura is currently the longest standing employee of the DDU!

Question: What is your earliest science memory ?
Answer: Growing paper tree crystals

Q: Did a particular person(s) or event start your career as a scientist?
A: I enjoyed science at school and am quite a creative/artistic person, so I liked the idea of designing and inventing new molecules.

Q: What characteristics make a good scientist?
A: (1) Resilience – a lot of science experiments don’t work so you need to be able to constantly move on and re-evaluate hypotheses (2) Enthusiasm – helps with point 1 (3) An ability to work in a team – science is rarely a solo effort (4) Attention to detail – an essential for any scientist.

Q: Do you think being a scientist impacts the way you approach everything in life?
A: No, I think people and life experience have impacted the way I approach everything in life. I famously never follow a recipe to the letter which either means I’m not that scientific at home or I’m a true chemist who thinks there is always room for improvement!

Q: Do non-science life experiences contribute towards success in the lab?
A: I’m sure many of us have lost people to devastating diseases and as time passes you see advancement in that field. Science is rarely a Eureka moment, each small discovery has the potential to be part of something bigger, continually having the desire to make a difference contributes to successes in the lab.

Q: What motivates you to come into work every day?
A: The drive to contribute positively to society

Q: Is there any part of human lives where science can’t help or inform?
A: Science can help and inform on most topics and still there is an infinite amount to discover, but we are all uniquely ourselves, can science truly explain why that is to the minute detail? It can probably only go so far.

Q: Do you think the current research environment needs to change to a) improve life for the scientists and b) to adapt to the way research is now such a team and international effort? ?
A: I think we need to learn from how interactions evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased use of video conferencing from personal computers has made it easier to speak to people across the world at more regular intervals. As scientists we should be open to collaboration and look to combine efforts to evolve science in a more efficient way.

At WCAIR we believe public engagement is a key priority for researchers.

Q: How do we help the science community and general public understand each other better? 
A: More science engagement in schools and events in free public spaces

Q: What do you think scientists need to learn from the public? 
A: Scientists need public feedback to have a broader view on how science is perceived by people who’ve not studied it in as much details as ourselves. Non-scientists can view our work from a perspective we’ve not considered and that is really important.

Q: Is there a science/natural world fact or concept (maybe) from another scientific field which excites and /or astounds you?
A: We are all made of atoms joined together in a certain way – how those become a living thing with unique characteristics amazes me!


Laura stands on a large rock on the beach in her shorts and fleeceGrew Up: Cupar, Fife

Best thing about Dundee: Sunshine, living by the coast, people

Favourite Book: Sunset Song – by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Favourite Box Set binges: The Bridge, The Americans or Dynasty

Favourite computer games: Just Dance

Favourite thing to do at the weekend: Having fun with my family outdoors

Desert Island Luxury: Suncream

Which record would you save from the Tay? So hard to choose, I like all music, as a child of the 80s I love anything from that era – some good ones ‘Under Pressure’ Queen or ‘Running up the hill’ Kate Bush