Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Name: Dr Sarah Cleary

Group: Kylie Vincent

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Biography

I was born and raised in the state of Vermont in the United States.  From a young age, my family went on hikes and explored the lakes and rivers near our home.  I think these activities helped foster my interest in biology and chemistry since there are a lot of interesting plants, animals, and ecosystems in the area.  During my undergraduate studies, I was very taken with organic chemistry, and ended up doing my thesis research in the subject.  The practical skills and information all just clicked, and I felt that I had found my calling. This, plus a very strong vote of confidence from my thesis advisor, was enough to convince me to pursue a PhD in chemistry.  I learned a lot during my graduate studies and became well-versed in organic synthesis.  Despite my enthusiasm for the topic, an internship with Unilever helped to refocus my sights on sustainable, “green” chemistry.  It was with this in mind that I searched for a postdoc position that would align with this goal.

Current research

The research I do in the Vincent group focuses on scaling up the HydRegen technology, which is a biocatalytic hydrogenation method.  Our goal is to implement the technology as a green alternative to metal-catalysed asymmetric reduction reactions that are more common-place in the fine and bulk chemistry industries.  As I work toward this goal, I use the knowledge and skills I acquired doing organic synthesis during my graduate research, and am simultaneously learning new biochemical and analytical techniques.  I have also been introduced to some of the ways that the industry benchmarks their “green” chemistry, and I am constantly measuring my own work against these standards.  My work in the Vincent group is helping me get closer to my career goals in sustainable chemistry, which could eventually be in industry or writing scientific policy.

A little bit extra

As I advance in my own career, I try to find ways to empower women and scientists with minority backgrounds in STEM.  I have been involved with organisations, committees, and outreach programs dedicated to this end, and am always looking out for additional opportunities to stay involved with this cause.

Outside of chemistry, I enjoy spending time outdoors.  This includes everything from going on a hike to sitting in the sun with a good book.  I also love to travel, try new foods, listen to live music, and to dance.  I recently travelled to India for a wedding, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to do all of the above!