Secret Scientist: Danka Tamburic

Danka Tamburic: Reader in Cosmetic Science, London College of Fashion

The London College of Fashion is a world renowned institute. What is less well known is its scientific research. Dr Tamburic is an experienced pharmacist with a PhD in pharmaceutics and cosmetics. Her broad experience enabled her to take a lead role in the development of the UK’s first degree course in Cosmetic Science, at the London College of Fashion.

Her current research includes work on skin “micro-needling” and an interdisciplinary project entitled The Beauty of Age.

Have you always been interested in science?
Yes, the scientific approach seems to be the way my mind has always worked. I could only think in an orderly, logical way, considering facts and looking at things from various angles. As a young girl, I was inspired by great discoveries, the stories of the power of human endeavour, personal and collective.

How did you come to work in Cosmetic Science education and research?
Unable to decide which branch of science I liked the best, I went to study Pharmacy, in my view a well-balanced mixture of applied sciences (Chemistry, Biology, Physical Chemistry, Maths and the elements of Medicine). I went back to university, as a research and teaching assistant in the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology and Cosmetology at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Belgrade. I finished my Master’s and PhD degrees there, working with students all along. Luckily, while working on my PhD project, I had a chance to spend six months at The School of Pharmacy, University of London, as a British Council scholar. That widened my horizons, as these things do. I would recommend to every young researcher to spend a period of time outside their usual working environment; this is as an invaluable step in everybody’s professional development.

I then spent some time working on mucoadhesive dosage forms as a Wellcome Trust scholar. Soon afterwards I was recruited by London College of Fashion to lead the development of the first degree course in Cosmetic Science in the UK. The course started in 2000 as a rarity, almost an educational experiment. In 2010, however, we have celebrated the 10th anniversary of an established and well-recognised course. The undergraduate programme is now being re-developed into an integrated Master’s degree, with is planned for 2012.

What excites you the most about your job?
The best thing is the element of flexibility and choice. Despite all constraints and pressures on today’s academics, we still have a say in the type of research we do, what projects we get involved in and who our collaborators are. On the top of that, there is excitement in research itself (stepping into the unknown!) and the possibility that its results may actually be useful to various people in various ways.

Could you tell us about something cool you have been involved with recently?
Last June, the first PhD viva in the UK in the area of Cosmetic Science took place at London College of Fashion. The project involved the use of nanotechnology in cosmetic development and was completed in collaboration with King’s College London. Another PhD is nearing completion, this time with University of Westminster, in the area of biotechnology. At the moment, I lead a project which evaluates the effect of micro-needling on skin parameters and another one, involving a multidisciplinary team, which looks into various aspects of mature beauty – The Beauty of Age project.

How does your work impact on people’s daily lives?
There is obviously an educational element to my job, which brings along great responsibility, but could also bring great satisfaction. This is mostly connected to my present or past students’ achievements.
Most of my work is in the area of applied research. After the publication of any paper in a relevant scientific journal, you hope that its content and results would be useful to those who work in the same or related areas. Sometimes, the content is directly applicable to product development in either cosmetic or pharmaceutical industry.

What excites you about the future of your work?
Its multidisciplinary nature. As individual sciences become more and more compartmentalised, I realise that most of my excitement within the eclectic area of Cosmetic Science comes from trying to connect various parts into meaningful small ‘packages’ of new insights.

I have started working with colleagues from other areas, including cultural studies and psychology of perception, in an attempt to give us a better chance to understand things. If we are lucky, understanding may lead to having an impact on people’s lives.

Image: Snapshot Blog

This is one of a series of interviews conducted by the British Science Association for National Science & Engineering Week 2011 and published here with thanks.

The British Science Association is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the British Science Association organises major initiatives across the UK, including National Science and Engineering Week, the annual British Science Festival, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges. The Association also organises specific activities for the science communication community in the UK through its Science in Society programme. For more information, please visit the British Science Association website.

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