sad to not be in IAS anymore :( Good luck Liz and Jim!
Arnold School, Blackpool 1997-2004
Lancaster University 2005-2008 (BSc Biological Science); University of Manchester 2008-2009 (MRes Translational Medicine); University of Manchester 2009-2013 (PhD Analytical Science)
I’ve done a few temporary summer jobs in the civil service (Department for Work and Pensions) and at Ai Claims Solutions. They were a bit different from science but I got to meet lots of nice people.
I’m still working for my PhD but I do some work as a demonstrator helping the undergraduate biologists in their lab sessions
University of Manchester
I’m developing a miniaturised device for breaking open cells, copying the DNA from the cells and storing the DNA
At university I studied Biology. Biology was always my favourite subject at school. Although a lot of my PhD work still involves biology it also involves a lot of chemistry, physics and some engineering. I’m trying to make a device which I can put cells onto and break them open. Then I can add an enzyme which copies the DNA that was inside the cells, a bit like a photocopier. Finally I need to be able to store this DNA on the device so that it can be used for testing. My device could be used in forensics, for example, where there is only a tiny amount of material available (like a single hair) but lots of DNA is needed for testing. The picture shows the device I use at the moment. It’s made of Aluminium because it needs to conduct heat. It’s split into two bits which are at different temperatures. The yellow ring that separates these two bits is polyfilla expandable foam! You might have seen people filling gaps in walls with this, particularly around pipes. It was pretty messy to get in that small gap as it kept expanding in the wrong direction. I really enjoy getting away from looking at screens filled with numbers sometimes and getting to make things even if they’re not always very high tec!
When I’m not working I like listening to music, going to gigs, going to the cinema and riding my horse. My horse is called Buddy, he’s 16 but I’ve had him since he was 3. I also have a dog called Poppy who’s a bit mad and only 10 months old.
My Typical Day:
Lots of experiments and reading, the occasional meeting and then home to watch TV or a film
Every day is pretty different but usually I try and get straight into the lab and start working on the experiment I’ve planned out for that day. I’m freakishly organised so I like to plan things out days in advance so I know what I’m doing. Although things don’t always go quite to plan… My experiments usually involving trying to copy some DNA on my device and see if it works. A lot of what I do is “problem-solving” which means asking myself why something hasn’t worked and what I could change about the way I’ve done things to make it work. Although it’s a bit disappointing when things don’t work it’s pretty fun trying loads of different things out until you get it to work. Sometimes things just work by accident! Once my experiment is set up and running I usually chat to the other members of my group and see how their work is going, read a few papers (to see what work other people have done and if it will help me) and maybe look at my results from the previous day which usually involves doing a lot of maths.
When my experiment is done I make sure everything is tidy and ready for the next day. Then go home to crash in front of the TV and either watch a film or hope that there’s something good on like football.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I’d like you to come and be a scientist for a day! Come and work with some top scientists and help us all solve problems together.
Ever wanted to see what being a scientist is really like? Think that you love biology but hate maths and physics? I know I did! Well I want you to come to where I work and see how cool being a scientist really is and how all of the science subjects are really fun and all really important. The best thing about the building I work in is that people who like Biology, people who like physics, people who like maths and people who like chemistry all work together to try and solve important science problems. All these scientists have different things that they know and different things that they’re good at. I know some things that my other scientist friends don’t know. But they also know a lot that I don’t know.
You will be able to come to the lab, be kitted out in a lab coat and safety glasses like a proper scientist, and you will meet lots of other scientists and be able to chat to them about their work. Together we could all solve some science conundrums!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
organised, friendly and a total science geek
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, I’ve always been very well behaved…
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Courteeners or Kasabian…can’t decide!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tricky. Probably either doing cross country jumping with my horse or maybe going to Rome and seeing the crypts and catacombes
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
That I owned my own stables, achieve the goal of my PhD and get a really cool job in science
Tell us a joke.
Two cows are in a field. One says to the other “Are you worried about all this mad cow disease?” The other replies “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m a banana!”