Sara was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, otherwise known as the “Edinburgh of the South”, in 1981. She lived a quintessentially Kiwi existence. It was a minimalist approach to life much like the protein chemistry of the early 1980s- given the analysis of complex samples was not yet possible.

Like her countryman Ernest Rutherford, the first man to split the atom, and characterise the aspects of physics which would one day encapsulate all of Sara’s life, something about the country air and simple lifestyle inspired the well-known ‘kiwi ingenuity’ (examples are the coat-hanger TV aerial, using No. 8 wire for everything, home bake, Richard Pearse flying before the Wright brothers, Pavlova and of course, Hobbits). Sara spent the 1990s trying to replicate Ernest Rutherford’s experiments of atom splitting with Humans, doing Tae Kwon Do from 1993, but far from yielding any Nobel Prize winning experiments she settled with some National titles instead. That same year the first search algorithms for peptide mass spectrometry were published, the as yet un-named proteomics was blossoming into existence.

The year 2000 brought on a year of academic awakening to Sara, as she moved to Sydney Australia, to study a BSc in Biochemistry at Macquarie University. Macquarie is the home of the first woman to characterise a protein structure in Australia, the genesis of the term Proteomics by Marc Wilkins, who did his PhD there at the aptly named the ‘Innovative University’. Protein Structure and function quickly became a passion for Sara, and her ‘kiwi ingenuity’ was nurtured by her Chemistry Lecturer (despite being covered head to toe by Sara in Acetonitrile during one practical) and he gave her a job as a technical assistant in the biotech company Fluorotechnics. Science for industrial benefit turned out to not be quite enough for Sara- and her inquisitiveness for the human condition led her to enrol in a Masters in Research at Sydney University, studying the protein expression changes in the disease Endometriosis.

The Australian scientific mentality (i.e. drinking H. pylori to prove a point) suited Sara to a tee, and translational medical research was to become her thing. She began working in pathology, chopping up every kind of body bit you might get removed, during the day, and doing proteomics during the night (an almost Dr Jekyll and Miss Hyde if you will). Her Masters was rapidly converted into a PhD, which she completed in the requisite 3 and a bit years, characterising hundreds of differentially regulated proteins spot by spot using 2D gels and Maldi ToF.

Sara flew to Europe on the completion of her PhD, like so many peptides, and began her first post doc optimising post synaptic density proteome characterisation, and SILAC labelling, using LC-MS/MS. The German dream, alas, came to an end after a year and Sara found herself in Edinburgh- a sort of home coming. The University of Dundee with its numerous, brand new mass specs, was an irresistible prospect for a budding Mass Spectrometrist, and the opportunities, research and connections have not ceased to flow.

Sara’s convergent career evolution with Mass Spectrometry, having access to each technology as it has come along, has given her a great appreciation for the science. The current developments in computation and MS hardware mean potential for proteomics continues to get more exciting by the year, particularly in The Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression, where we endeavour to embrace new technology and to be pioneers.

Dr Sara ten Have
Proteomic Consultant and Technologist
Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression
College of Life Sciences
University of Dundee
Dow Street
Dundee, DD1 5EH, Scotland, UK
Phone: +44 1382 386 787