skip to Main Content

SCS2022: “Every experiment is a stepping stone“

Molly Stevens is one of the plenary speakers at the second national meeting of the Swedish Chemical Society, SCS 2022, which takes place in Linköping on the 20-22nd of June. She is Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine as well as Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences at Imperial College London, where she has worked since 2004.

The research in her lab is diverse and Molly Stevens says that her research group is comprised of people from all over the world, from several different disciplines.

Molly Stevens.
Photo: Imperial College London

– My team comprises surgeons, chemists, cell biologists, engineers, physicists, and more. All these skillsets foster a very creative environment and leads to some very interesting research, as having different points of view to learn from is extremely valuable in science. Our research brings in all sorts of chemistry but also nanostructuring of materials and new ways of thinking about processing materials.

Furthermore, she says that the work in the lab spans applications in biosensing and therapeutics. The focus of one such project is looking at biomaterials and cell interactions.

– We’ve done a lot of work on structuring of materials to make what we call nanoneedles. Cells can attach to these, like it’s sitting on a bed of nails rather than a flat surface. This changes the way the cell reacts to its mechanical environment. It becomes more permeable, so we can look at delivering things across the cell membrane and look at the biochemical processes with the cell.

– In other work we are developing ultrasensitive biosensing which also spans applications in global health with a view to democratisation of access to healthcare technologies. The work from our lab is translated through new spin-outs, industrial partnerships and not for profit routes.

Molly Steven’s first degree was in pharmacy.

– I enjoyed it as it was so many subjects in one. Originally, I had thought about studying medicine but didn’t want to spend five extra years at university. However, ironically, I’ve been at a university ever since. After my undergraduate degree, I worked in hospitals and then took an extended break to travel throughout Southeast Asia, and later South America.

– I decided during this time do a PhD as a personal challenge to myself. I undertook a very fundamental PhD in Biophysics and Surface Analysis where I learned an enormous amount. I then followed this up with a more applied postdoc in chemical engineering at MIT which was also a fantastic experience.

What is your best advice to young chemists today?

– Choose a topic you are passionate about and that has important consequences for the world. Also science can be tough so something I always tell my students is that every experiment, regardless of the outcome is a stepping stone and an opportunity to learn. Treasure your team and collaborators.

Take the opportunity to listen to Molly Stevens and many other top scientists at the SCS2022 meeting in Linköping on the 20-22nd of June. The conference will bring together chemists from all fields of chemistry represented within the Swedish Chemical Society (Svenska Kemisamfundet). Read more here: