Ann Rowley: Chemistry, mentoring, a unicorn, and medicines

My daughter talks all the time about wanting to be a scientist, but she also talks about wanting to be a unicorn.  One of these is clearly impossible, but without a role model in chemistry, a career in science seemed just as out of reach to me.  I had no idea what it would look like as a career, so it seemed just as impossible as it is for my daughter to sprout a colorful horn and four hooves.   

My mom was a psychiatrist and growing up I saw the impact medicines have on mental health. I realized the power that a novel therapeutic can have to transform not only a population of individuals stricken with a disease, but their families and loved ones as well.  Illness can affect our finances, our relationships, and our ability to positively contribute to society; therefore, medicine can be transformative and have a positive ripple effect. This drew me to have a career in pharmaceutical industry.    

When I meet someone new and they ask what I do, I’m always proud to say I’m a ‘Drug Hunter’ looking to cure diseases."

Ann Rowley

Team Leader, Medicinal Chemistry

What that really means is that I'm a medicinal chemist using my background in synthetic organic chemistry to solve difficult problems to make an impact on human disease. Beyond that I am a wife, a mom to two small children and an active marathon runner and triathlete.

Two female scientists smiling at the camera
Ann and her mentor, Lisa

I’m grateful to have the mentorship I did back then and now from both my peers and senior leaders.  Lisa Marcaurelle, a senior director and of one of the many phenomenal role models I am lucky to have here at GSK, was my first boss and mentor directly following graduate school at the Broad institute. Sometimes Lisa asks questions to deliberately get me to think differently. She’ll also challenge me with leadership and career growth opportunities. Some might find that intimidating, I find it to be a way to spread my wings and learn more. I take her lessons and use them to build, challenge and mentor my own team.   

Mentoring isn’t one size fits all

As a team leader, I strive to be introspective as well as see things from different points of view.  Mentoring isn’t one size fits all and takes a lot of getting to know what works well for each one of my team members.  Our diverse teams allow us all to think outside the box, grow and connect, appreciate others’ experiences and valued perspectives. I can’t put into words how proud it makes me that ‘Team Ann’ truly exemplifies GSK values. 

Whether I am leading a meeting about an important medicinal chemistry target, making a compound in the lab, setting up a team building activity, spending time with family at home, or training for my goal race, I bring my positive attitude, creative thinking, ambition, and tireless energy to everything I do. 

Young child in a unicorn costume standing with her mother
Ann and her daughter, the unicorn

My personal goal is to be at a place where I can say I helped get a novel therapeutic on the market and I did it by collaborating and mentoring a brilliant, diverse, and inclusive team. GSK is the place where it will happen. And if my daughter decides to be a scientist and not a unicorn, I’ll be even happier.