Helena graduated from the University of Bath in 2006 with an MChem (first class honours), before moving to Durham University to study for a PhD in the Department of Chemistry under the supervision of Dr Andrés E. Goeta and Professor Judith A. K. Howard (CBE, FRS). Helena's thesis described detailed structure-property correlations in switchable molecular materials using in-situ light irradiation, high-pressure and variable-temperature crystallographic investigations.
In 2010 Helena moved to the Laboratoire de Chimie de Coordination in Toulouse (LCC-CNRS) for a two-year post-doctoral appointment under the supervision of Dr Gábor Molnár and Dr Azzedine Bousseksou in the Switchable Molecular Materials group. During that time Helena investigated the physics of the spin crossover phenomenon under pressure, in collaboration with Professor Philippe Guionneau at the Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux (ICMCB-CNRS), and initiated a project concerned with novel applications for molecular materials as actuator devices. In 2013, Helena returned to the University of Bath for a post-doctoral position under the supervision of Professor Paul R. Raithby, before taking up the position of Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Kent in 2015.
Dr Shepherd's principal research interests are concerned with the development of new smart materials with useful properties (colour, size, magnetism, etc.) that can change in response to an external influence (e.g. temperature, pH, stress). She conducts both fundamental studies aimed at rationalisation of the underlying physical phenomena giving rise to the switchable properties, and also seeks to develop these materials towards useful real-world applications.