University of York, 2006-2010. University of Cambridge 2011-present
BSc in Biology (with a year in industry). MRes in Stem Cell Biology.
Lots of places, to name a few: A supermarket, a hotel. I did a year in a pharmaceutical lab and I’ve taught English in China!
2nd Year PhD student
University of Cambridge
Favourite thing to do in my job: I think its pretty cool how our bodies work – especially how things work in each cell of our body. So my favourite thing is to learn something new! And I also really like it when I do an experiment and I get exciting results from it :)
I’m trying to understand how the cells in an fertilised egg know they need to make different types of cells (e.g. brain and blood cells) so the egg goes on to form a baby.
You’ve all been told in your sex education lessons about what happens when a sperm meets an egg – a baby is born 9 months later! Well a lot happens in those 9 months! And actually I’m only focusing on what happens right at the beginning. At this stage the embryo is only a bunch of cells and the cells divide to make more cells, and they have to decide what kind of cell to become. One cell might decide they will go on to make the brain, while another might go on to make blood. How does the cell know what it should become? How is this controlled so this development happens correctly? I am trying to answer this question by looking at one molecule called “Sall4”. When we get rid of Sall4 in the mouse embryo, the embryos don’t survive past the very early stages of development. So why is this, what is Sall4 doing in the cells that means it is so important? This work I am doing will hopefully lead to us to understand better how cells make these decisions, and this could mean we can control these decisions, and so make cells that ill people might need – for example to make working liver cells for people with liver diseases.
My Typical Day
Looking after my cells, bits of experiments… and the important 10 o’clock tea time!
Most experiments take more than one day to finish, some can take ageesssss (especially if things go wrong :S ). So a typical day for me means I do little bits of each experiment I’m running (I definitely need to write everything I do down or I completely forget where I get to in each experiment – especially when I’m doing more than 3 things at the same time!)
But the thing that always stays the same is looking after my cells. Everything I do at the moment is using these stem cells (these are mouse embryonic stem cells – so we take them from a mouse embryo four days after fertilisation. At this stage its only a ball of cells. And we can keep these cells growing forever in culture so we only need 1 embryo to get cells to work with forever in the lab!)
And I’ll probably talk about some science with other scientists, or just chat!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would like to go to some schools in Cambridge and get more pupils interested in science!
I got interested in science from speaking to real scientists and being able to look around a lab and see how it all works. I think this is the best way to inspire students like you! (So I hope you all like this experience!) But what about the students from less fortunate schools that don’t take part in something like this? Or students with parents who maybe aren’t interested in science and so wouldn’t think to take them to science festivals. I want to talk to some of these students about what its like to be a scientist, and talk about what’s cool about stem cells!
We have some really cool stem cell games and a lesson to introduce students to stem cells – and I would like to do these with as many students as possible!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic. Silly. Adventurous
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Finding out something new is pretty cool!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
It was actually a tour round a lab that inspired me first to become a scientist. I thought it all looked pretty cool!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not too much, just a bit of mischief here and there….
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Ooo this is a hard one. I’m listening a lot to Alt-J at the moment.
What's your favourite food?
Mmmm… Roast potatoes :)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I spent 6 months in China teaching English, that was a really cool experience. Learnt a tiny bit of Chinese too!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Finish my PhD, be happy and… get a puppy!
Tell us a joke.
What cheese would you use to get a bear out from the woods? Camembert.