What motivates you?
The excitement of every moment of discovery. Also, the letters I get from patients and the interactions I have with my students really keep me motivated.
Have you ever had moments when you felt like giving up?
Yes. The constant failure and rejection, especially for funding, can really wear on you. Everyone sees your successes but they don’t know about the 5 to 10 failures behind every success.
What’s your response to people who say your project won’t work?
Well, first and foremost I try to listen to them – I’m always open to ideas and feedback – but I don’t let unnecessarily dismissive comments stop my work.
If you were able to rent out a billboard in Times Square, what would you write on it?
‘Stop habitat destruction, and support preservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity.’ That doesn’t make a very sexy headline, but that would be my main message to the public.
What will your field of research look like in 2050?
I envision a new era of medicine in which we approach drug-resistant infections in a whole new way. Advances in our understanding of how synergistic therapies work will enable us to design better medicines that quickly reduce the severity of disease and achieve cures even for difficult-to-treat, antibioticresistant infections.
ABOVE: MRSA bacteria (pink spheres) are resistant to many common antibiotics, making an infection hard to treat
LEFT: Extracts from sweet chestnut can block the effects of MRSA