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Gibson Group: Alex Baker

Alex's research is focused on making medical tests that are stable in a wide range of conditions, for a wide range of diseases, all for less than a US dollar.

Alex is a WIHEA fellow and organic chemist with a focus on carbohydrate chemistry deployed on polymer and nanoparticle scaffolds. His work is used in the design of protein-free medical diagnostic devices. He is also a trained XPS user and teaches lab-focussed spectroscopy in undergraduate workshops and labs. Alongside his research, Alex is a Student Representative with a strong focus on removing educational barriers before and at university.

Biography

Alex grew up in Essex, attending Westcliff High School for Boys for his GCSEs and A-Levels (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and History). He recieved his first class undergraduate masters degree in Chemical Biology from the University of Warwick Department of Chemistry. His final masters year thesis focused on glycosylation systems in prokaryotes as homologues of eukaryotes, under the supervision of Dr. M. Tosin. This work involved structural and functional studies utilising site-directed mutagenesis and activity assays.

Alex began his PhD under the supervision of Prof. M. Gibson in 2017 with industrial collaborators Iceni Diagnostics. The PhD is funded by Iceni Diagnostics and the BBRSC as an MIBTP iCase studentship and split between the Department of Chemistry and School of Life Sciences.

Since October 2017, Alex has been a member of the Postgraduate Student Staff Liason Committee for Chemistry and an MIBTP student representative for the University of Warwick iCase programme. In November 2017, Alex became the Postgraduate Research Representative for the Faculty of Science at the Univeristy of Warwick and was elected in March 2018 to represent the newly formed Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine. He has a particular interest in improving student mental health, encouraging faculty outreach and raising the profile of teaching. His recent work has seen the introduction of a robust pastoral system for all PhD/PGR students and the passing of maternity/paternity leave for all funded and part-funded PhD students.

Alex has been awarded a Warwick International Higher Education Academy Fellowship for his contributions to teaching, learning and the student experience. WIHEA is an academy of educators engaged in developing high quality learning and teaching at the University of Warwick

Research Interests

The development of glycan-based nanoparticles and lateral flow platforms for point of care diagnostics, and the synthesis of novel small molecules and sugars. He is also trained in the use of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS).

Alex has undertaken a three month mini-project (January-March, 2018) at the University of Birmingham in the research group of Dr. F. Fernandez-Trillo. The project focused on producing glycopolymers for lectin agglutiniation studies.

Research Presentations

Oral Presentations:

  • Hacking Pregnancy Tests with Chemical Lego to Fight Disease and Drug Resistance - Warwick Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference 2019

Poster Presentations:

  • Can a Historic Reaction Deliver Novel Sugars for Future Diagnostics - MIBTP Poster Session 2018
  • Robust Protein-Free Diagnostics for the Developing World - MIBTP Poster Session 2019 and MIBTP AGM 2019
  • Going Protein-Free - The Future of Medical Diagnostics - Chemistry Postgraduate Symposium 2019

Publications

Richards, SJ., Baker, A.N., Walker, M., Gibson M.I., Submitted

Georgiou, P.G., Richards, SJ., Baker, A.N., Walker, M., Gibson, M.I., Pending

Laezza, A., Richards, SJ., Baker, A.N., Walker, M., Gibson, M.I., Pending

Teaching Experience

Alex enjoys teaching and has actively engaged with teaching in the University, this has built on Alex's time as a secondary school Science teacher in Nepal and teaching experience placements in UK Schools. Alex's university-level teaching experience is listed below;

  • Assisting in the delivery of Spectroscopy Workshops a 2nd year undergraduate chemistry module
  • Demonstrating biochemistry labs for 1st year biochemistry undergraduates
  • Writing and delivering Spectroscopy Intro Labs for 1st year chemistry undergraduates
  • Supervising a 2nd year undergraduate URSS student for their research project
  • Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA) Fellowship - 2019-20
  • Leading student led revision classes for undergraduates in organic chemistry, bio-organic chemistry and biology for chemists
  • Acting as lab-support for disabled students

Outreach Work

Alex enjoys running and participating in outreach activities for all ages, some examples are listed below;

  • Demonstrating for primary school, GCSE, AS and A-Level students in the undergraduate teaching laboratories with Nick Barker.
  • Founding and running the Think Science™ conference for two years. The conferences encouraged over 500 A-Level and GCSE students to see the diveristy of current research and to consider studying STEM subjects. Shortlisted as Best Summit, Conference or Forum in 2017 by the University of Warwick Students Union.
  • Speaking to 300 young people and parents on the importance of non-clinical research to the health sector and why it is a viable career alternative to Medicine - Not all Doctors have a Medical Degree
  • Running the ChemSoc Outreach program, as Outreach Officer (2014-2015), aimed at sparking a love of the Sciences in primary school students. He was awarded the Warwick Volunteers Certificate for this work.
  • Carrying out various talks and careers days in secondary schools to encourage GCSE and A-Level students to pursue a degree in the Sciences.
  • Organising and running an annual 3-day science track at a summer club for primary school children.

A demonstration of "Elephant's Toothpaste" to over 400 people on the final morning of the summer club

Slow-mo Bottle-rocket launch at the summer camp

  • Refurbishing labs and teaching Science at Solidarity International Academy, Nepal.

    Public Engagement

    • Fixing Pregnancy Tests with Sweet Chemical Lego - Research on the Rocks 2018
    • Chemical Lego - Better Pregnancy & Disease Testing - Pint of Science 2019

    A demonstration of "Alginate Jelly Worms - super-fast polymers synthesis" used at Pint of Science 2019

    Awards

    2018
    • Faculty Representative of the Year Award

    "For having worked tirelessly to promote and amplify the research student voice’, within both the university and the SU. He has successfully formed and maintained partnerships with academic colleagues and has more than deserved this award" - Warwick SU

    2019
    • Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA) Fellowship
    • Faculty Representative of the Year - Nominated
    • Exec of the Year Award - with Postgraduate Exec
    • University of Warwick Department of Chemistry, Postgraduate Symposium Poster Prize - First Place

    Affiliations

    Royal Society of Biology: Associate Member (AMRSB)

    Royal Society of Chemistry: Associate Member (AMRSC)

    Biochemical Society: Postgraduate Student Member

    Warwick International Higher Education Academy: Fellow and Member

    Grants and Bursaries

    • BBSRC-funded MIBTP program
    • iCase Scholarship with Iceni Diagnostics Ltd.

    Other Interests

    Outside of his research, Alex enjoys playing hockey, watching Scottish Rugby and the Green Bay Packers, films, tech, history and attempting to learn French.

    AB profile PoS

    Education

    University of Warwick

    MChem in Chemical Biology

    2013-2017

    Contact

    a.n.baker@warwick.ac.uk

    @AB_wan_Kenobi

    ORCID ID

    orcid.org/0000-0001-6019-3412