Harriet Barker

Harriet chose to study biochemistry having always had a passion for the biological and chemical sciences. Having gained new skills in using X-ray crystallography while completing her third-year research project, Harriet is now about to begin her MBiolSci project in industry at AstraZeneca, working on biopharmaceutical cell line development.

Harriet Barker student profile

“Throughout my school years I had always shown a passion for biological and chemical sciences. So, as I began considering university courses I was instantly drawn to the field of biochemistry - the study of chemical processes within and relating to biological systems. I have always been interested in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry; the four-year MBiolSci course presented me with a brilliant opportunity to obtain experience working in industry, whilst also obtaining a masters qualification in Biochemistry.  

“The first and second year of the course provided me with a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of molecular biosciences covering not just biochemistry but also genetics and microbiology. The structure of the first two years allowed me to realise how the three subject areas integrate, with genetics and microbiology allowing my biochemical knowledge to be expanded. Having a free choice of third-year modules from an extensive list of titles allowed me to narrow my knowledge, focussing more on biochemical topics. All third-year modules are taught by expert academics covering current, research-based content; they provided me with a real flavour of what can be achieved from academic (and industrial) biochemical research. 


The first and second year of the course provided me with a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of molecular biosciences covering not just biochemistry but also genetics and microbiology. The structure of the first two years allowed me to realise how the three subject areas integrate, with genetics and microbiology allowing my biochemical knowledge to be expanded.

Harriet Barker

MBiolSci Biochemistry


“I thoroughly enjoyed my third-year project, which involved using X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of 3 periplasmic substrate binding proteins from the soil bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris. The project saw me and three other third-year students: overexpressing purifying and preparing protein samples to produce crystals; becoming familiar with operating structural software programmes such as Coot and PyMol and making structure-based predictions about possible substrates for the proteins. The project allowed me to apply the practical skills I had developed during first- and second-year teaching labs as well as develop new computer-based ones. 

“I am moving to Cambridge for my final year to complete a level four project in industry with AstraZeneca. I shall be working in biopharmaceutical cell line development looking to improve the efficiency of the production of therapeutic antibodies by Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. The placement will provide me with a brilliant opportunity to apply the theory I have learnt in my Cells as Factories module and a chance to work with and handle mammalian cell lines. 

“Although I won’t be graduating until next summer, my time at Sheffield has come to all too quick a close. The university and the city have so much to offer. I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time studying here and couldn’t recommend the experience more highly.”

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