Skip to content

Dame Janet Thornton

My research

I am interested to understand the molecular basis of biological processes, especially how protein structures perform their functions in vivo. These structures reveal how life works in 3D. I have used computational biology approaches to study and classify the universe of protein structures and their interactions with other biomolecules and drugs. Recently we have focused on enzyme function and how one enzyme can evolve over time to perform different functions. I am also interested in how genome data can help to reveal the molecular basis of diseases and the ageing process.

My journey

After studying physics, I changed disciplines to biology. After some wobbles, I completed my PhD and went to Oxford, commuting home at the weekend. On the arrival of our son, I worked part-time, staying with my parents in Oxford. When travelling with two children became challenging I moved to Birkbeck, continuing  part-time work until our daughter went to secondary school, when I moved to UCL to a Professorship.  In 2001 I became Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge.  In summer 2015, I enthusiastically stepped down as director and returned to part-time work as a research group leader. In summary the critical factors were hard work,  good organisation, a caring flexible nanny and enjoying both family life and the job!