The Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture Series

The Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture 2018: Changes of State and Mind

Professor Dame Carol Robinson FRS FMedSci

Dr Lee’s Professor of Physical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford

The 2018 Lecture took place Thursday 10 May 2018.

Dame Carol is pictured at right with Wolfson President Jane Clarke.

Professor Dame Carol Robinson is a world-leading scientist with an inspiring back story. Having left school at 16, she obtained her first degree, by day release from her job with Pfizer, and then completed a PhD from Cambridge in just two years. Although she then had a career-break for eight years to stay at home with her three young children, Dame Carol went on to became the first ever female Professor of Chemistry in Cambridge in 2001, and then the first female holder of a named Professorship in Chemistry in Oxford.

Elected to the Royal Society in 2004 and as a foreign member of the American National Academy of Sciences in 2017, Dame Carol is President Elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dame Carol has led the world in the development of mass spectrometry to study proteins and their complexes. Proteins are arguably the most important molecules in the cell – they are the molecules which form complexes that carry out most of the central functions of life. Imagine a new way to study the structure of protein molecules and complexes, without the encumbrance of the surrounding solution or the crystal lattice and free to fly in the gas phase. To do this, protein assemblies would have to survive the change of state, from solution to gas phase. Theoreticians had predicted that proteins would turn inside out during this phase transition such that results would be meaningless. Carol Robinson proved the world wrong. Behind the scenes she was adapting mass spectrometers to explore this phenomenon and to demonstrate the survival of protein assemblies in the gas phase. Some 20 years later, mass spectrometry is capable of maintaining proteins and their assemblies intact and retaining their overall topology. Today, this gas phase structural biology approach is providing a new view of dynamic interactions between proteins, lipid and drugs – important criteria for understanding human health and for enhancing the prospects of drug discovery.

Wolfson College - an institution that celebrates diversity and supports scholars who have different trajectories in their academic careers - was particularly pleased to welcome Professor Dame Carol Robinson as its 2018 Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecturer. In her talk, Dame Carol shared insights into the challenges, discoveries and achievements of her career.

The Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture Series at Wolfson College was endowed by Dr Lee Seng Tee in 2005 on the occasion of the College’s 40th Anniversary. This year the event also coincides with Dr Lee's 95th birthday on 16 April.

Previous Lectures