Because crystals are beautiful
2018-01-08

Description: Alice Brink Tags: molecules and atoms, Dr Alice Brink, Department of Chemistry, crystals 

Dr Alice Brink, researcher and lecturer at the university’s Department of Chemistry.
Photo: Charl Devenish



Exposing crystals to X-ray beams gives away information researchers can use. It is called X-ray crystallography. This is also the primary focus of Dr Alice Brink's work. 

Dr Brink is a researcher and senior lecturer at the University of the Free State’s Department of Chemistry, and has been at the department for almost two years now.

Taking apart the building blocks of stone, trees or the human body, one reaches the microscopic level where molecules and atoms are at work. Studying molecules is the world of Dr Brink.

Current research she is taking part in is radiopharmaceutical development. They are trying to make or improve a drug molecule with a metal centre called a “radioactive nuclide” to deliver a precise radiation dose within a body depending on what its role needs to be. 

Radiopharmaceuticals

Forming this radiopharmaceutical agent, researchers need to know its appearance, and therefore they form the chemical molecule into a crystal. 

Crystallography casts the atoms and the structure of the molecule, which leads to a better understanding of why one drug is more effective than another. 

Dr Brink is passionate about her research and the challenges it brings to the laboratory. She loves her work of trying to develop a drug molecule that someday might change someone’s life for the better. 

Fuel and agriculture

It is linked to her goal as a researcher at the UFS. She wants to be part of a university team that developed a radiopharmaceutical from its molecule assembly phase to its approval for medical treatment. 

Her arena of chemistry and crystallography is not limited to medicinal progress but includes research into catalysts. This service eventually finds its use within the fuel and agriculture industries and in material science in the engineering field.  

For the future, Dr Brink is exploring new frontiers in collaboration with researchers at Manchester University in the UK. The work combines the fields of small molecule crystallography, protein crystallography and radiopharmaceutical drug development.