Professor Emma Raven
Winner: 2020 Interdisciplinary Prize
University of Bristol
For seminal contributions to understanding the roles of heme in biology.
Celebrate Professor Emma Raven
Most people have heard of hemoglobin, which is the protein that transports oxygen around the human body. Hemoglobin contains two parts – the heme group which contains iron and gives it its red colour, and the globin which is a long protein molecule wrapped around the heme. Professor Emma Raven is interested in the role of heme in biology – it is used not just for hemoglobin but in many other proteins and enzymes too, and it can carry out many different kinds of chemistry. According to Raven: “It is a beautiful and versatile molecule, which biology exploits in full.”Read full biography
Professor Emma Raven is Head of the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol. She was born and went to school in Northamptonshire and obtained a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Leicester in 1988. Her interest in metalloproteins originated during undergraduate work with M C R Symons on hemoglobin, and from PhD studies at Newcastle University with the late Geoff Sykes, FRS. She subsequently moved to the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) to Grant Mauk's laboratory, where she worked on a number of heme-containing proteins. In 1994 she was offered a lectureship at the University of Leicester, where she worked for 23 years. She moved to the University of Bristol in 2018.
Professor Raven’s research work has been focused on understanding structure and function of heme proteins, and their role in biology, and has been facilitated by research fellowships from the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust and BBSRC. She has a longstanding interest in the mechanism used in heme enzymes.
Laterally Professor Raven is using her knowledge on heme enzyme catalysis to explore the roles of heme in cells and the complex question of heme-dependent biological regulation.
Who or what has inspired you?
What has been a highlight for you?
Working with young people – undergraduates and PhD students – has been a genuine privilege. We learn so much from them and we get so much pleasure from seeing them develop into mature scientists for the future. And working in a university brings with it many opportunities to meet amazing people, and to try to do some good.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
When I was young I had no concept of what I might achieve. Role models for women in science did not exist, or were not celebrated or publicised, so it was hard to look ahead and see how you fitted into the world. But I was lucky to be given encouragement and focus from my parents, from my school (Weavers) and from key academic mentors who supported me and gave good advice along the way. So, I would say to any young person – do something that you enjoy and that is rewarding, believe in the future, and you will be truly amazed by what you can achieve. And most of all, feel inspired to be yourself – don’t be constrained by social norms or apparent conventions, the world will adjust to allow you to succeed.
What is your favourite element?
That is easy! Iron of course, because it is the element contained within the heme group of hemoglobin that I have studied since I was an undergraduate. And what more important element could there be than the one that moves oxygen around our bodies?