Dr Emily Draper

Published: 15 March 2022

Self-assembled soft materials chemistry

Emily Draper photo


Dr Emily Draper

School Chemistry

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, 10/2021 – 10/2025 (formerly a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow)

Area of Research

 Self-assembled soft materials chemistry


Why did you choose to pursue a fellowship in your research career?

Mainly because I wanted to have a research career in academia. There are not a lot of lectureship positions around, and so a fellowship is a great first chance of starting some independent research and create your own niche area. During the 2nd year of my post-doc at Glasgow, I decided I’d had enough of working on other peoples’ research ideas and wanted to pursue my own. I applied for a few fellowships before being successful with the Leverhulme scheme. It’s a really great stepping-stone between post-doctoral work and being a lecturer, while also giving you a taste for independent research. You can then use your own research portfolio to pursue a lectureship, as well as using it to show that you can bring in grants for example. This gives you a better chance of successfully applying for a lectureship position when the right one comes along. This time around, the Fellowship is a chance to do something new and pursue a different research direction, and it’s a good window of time at 4 years to do this.  It’s also generously funded and allows for two more post-docs to support my research.

Why work at the University of Glasgow?

When I was applying for my first fellowship, I was working as a PDRA at Liverpool and, at that point, I just moved where the job was when my PI moved up here. But I decided to keep the fellowship in Glasgow as there are some really great opportunities here, like the LKAS funding, ECDP training and the Crucible for example, as well as some really great people to collaborate with, not only in chemistry but throughout the whole university. I think the support for early career people here in unrivalled. There is also so much being put into the University at the moment, and it is exciting to see it change. I want to be a part of that. I was awarded a lectureship and this new fellowship allows me to further develop as a researcher here at Glasgow. Away from the University, I love living in Scotland and visiting different areas on holiday.

How would you describe your research in 20 words or less?

The design and use of responsive self-assembled organic materials for use in devices.

What is your research highlight?

It’s winning the BTM Willis prize in 2020, which is awarded annually to someone in recognition of a single outstanding piece of work, or a longer-term coherent body of work, in the application of neutron scattering. I’d never done any neutron scattering until I was a PDRA, so it’s really nice to go from that position to winning a prize and getting that recognition from the community.

What do you look for in a collaboration?

I think good communication between everyone, it is hard work when collaborations are very one sided and you have to chase people – both sides need to be getting something from the work. I also like to work with people who get as excited about the work as I do. Conferences are a great place to meet new potential collaborators and talk face-to-face, but I’ve also made use of my network and worked with former colleagues and peers from my previous roles.

How do you see your research impacting society?

Finding solutions to real world problems. I would really love to get something from the lab into some sort of product. I work with a couple of industrial partners, so to actually see some of my research out in the real-world helping people would be amazing. I also like seeing other people get excited about research and pursue it, whether it be some children in school, or an undergraduate who thought they didn’t like chemistry and didn’t want to stay after their degree change their minds. It’s a great feeling when you are doing final year vivas and you ask students “what is next”, and they say that their final year lab project made them want to go work in chemistry or do a PhD. It makes all the teaching feel worthwhile.

What next?

This Fellowship is trying to make computer models, so what’s next is trying to learn computer modelling! I’m really excited to get into a new area of research with this programme of work. I’ll also be trying to further develop industry collaborations, so we’re developing demonstrator models to take around as an exhibit.

First published: 15 March 2022