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Dr Zoe Ayres

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Zoë J. Ayres, CChem

Head of Laboratory Facilities

Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
I am an analytical scientist by background, with a passion for all things science and technology. I am particularly interested in accessibility, sustainability, and building positive research culture.

In 2012 I embarked on my undergraduate degree in Forensic Science (BSc) at Nottingham Trent University – rapidly learning that forensics in the United Kingdom is nothing like CSI Miami. What I did find, however, was a love for analytical science: using scientific instrumentation to learn more about the world around us. From here I went on to do a master’s degree at the University of Warwick in “Analytical Science: Methods and Instrumental Techniques” learning about a range of analytical instrumentation from UV-Vis to mass spectrometry. From here I did a project with AstraZeneca, looking at the detection of heavy metals using Electrochemical X-ray Fluorescence in pharmaceutical products.

After this, I went on to get my PhD from Warwick in electrochemical sensor development, with my work focusing on environmental applications, as well as developing new fabrication methods for making diamond-based electrodes, where I discovered a novel quinone-based pH sensor. During this time, I dabbled in laser physics, electrochemistry, and analytical science and could often be found tinkering in the lab.  I received a range of awards from my research including the Sensors for Water Interest Group Prize, as well as the Ronald Belcher Award, both of which are nationally recognised awards. In 2017, I secured a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from a Royal Society Innovation Award to further this research.

Looking for a new challenge, in 2018 I decided to transition from academia to industry, working for the international water company as a Senior Scientist for several years. My job involved new technology evaluation and testing, working with both external stakeholders as well as on internal research projects. After this I became Head of Research and Development for a nanotechnology company, managing research outcomes, before making the decision to re-join academia, joining the OU in 2023.

None of what I have achieved to date has been done in isolation, and I owe a great deal of thanks to a bunch of people for where I am today.

Committee Work/Professional Memberships

I’ve always loved being involved in a range of activities. This has included being part of several scientific committees, as well as being a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2014 I joined the Analytical Science Network, the early career analytical science committee in the UK, helping organise conferences for 6 years, chairing the 2019 conference. I was also the Publicity Officer for the Analytical Methods Committee, for several years. I have been a Council member of the Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Community (previously the Analytical Division) since 2016 and am the President-Elect of the Analytical Community Council. I will take office as the President from July 2023, being the 4th woman to hold the position since 1875. I am also a British Standards Institute expert, advising on physical, chemical and biochemical methods and standard adoption for the UK, and am a Chartered Chemist.

More recently I became a Trustee of the Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund, helping manage the multi-million pound charity and portfolio to support analytical science in the UK and Ireland.


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work/Diversity Statement

My journey hasn’t always been easy at times. I struggled with my mental health considerably during my PhD due to the pressures of research and academia on early career researchers. To this end, I care passionately about creating inclusive working environments and leading with a people-first approach. I am committed to improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within the sciences and beyond, having contributed to a range of projects and initiatives to date, including a writing a range of articles, podcast interviews and delivering over 50 invited talks.  You would like to collaborate on a project please do get in touch.

  • Project lead on development of an Open Access Diversity Book Club (Royal Society of Chemistry Inclusion and Diversity funded #147236208). This included the development of a full set of resources and running the pilot program for a year. Attendees included academics from all career stages, including technical staff, students, and academics.
  • Co-Applicant for a Distinguished Lecture Series “Breaking Barriers”: A series of inclusion and diversity events, including round-table discussions on issues of equality and diversity to celebrate the successes of underrepresented groups.
  • Creator of the #AcademicMentalHealth posters, highlighting the challenges individuals might face at different career stages in academia.
  • Co-Founder of Voices of Academia, a blog enabling academics to share their mental health experiences, to raise awareness, break stigma, and provide connection. 
  • Author of the book “Managing Your Mental Health During Your PhD: A Survival Guide” published by Springer in September 2022.
  • Lead on ongoing "Spotlight Series" disability project, creating posters for school settings to highlight work by disabled scientists, a collaboration between Enable Science and Compound Interest.