I'm glad I took part and that I could inspire the next generation of scientists!
Surbiton High School 6th Form College 2008-2010, University of Leeds 2010-2014, University of Surrey 2014-2015
BSc (Hons) Natural Science (Industrial), MSc Toxicology
Surbiton High School, Harrods Ltd, Sealed Air, University of Leeds, Uniqlo, University of Exeter
University of Exeter Medical School
Favourite thing to do in my job Doing experiments to figure out how and why some types of cells in the body react differently when they are exposed to various types of compounds.
I am a friendly and fun scientist who doesn’t take myself too seriously.
I recently moved to Exeter, from Surrey, to start doing research as a PhD student at the University of Exeter Medical School. When I’m not doing research I like to keep busy so I’m always going something after work and during my weekends. I have joined lots of clubs where I can meet new people and learn non-science stuff. I think it’s great to have other interests and to learn about how the world works. For example, I really love being part of a debating club at the University. Every week, loads of students get together to debate about really interesting and varied topics like, whether we should be saving endangered species or whether economics courses at University teach too maths and not enough history. This allows me to broaden my knowledge and also learn how to make a strong argument to win a debate. When I get good enough I’d like to compete with students from other Universities; that’s one of my goals for the time being!
I look at the processes behind how fatty acids get inside cells.
I am a PhD student at the University of Exeter. Being a PhD student means that you get to do research to ‘figure stuff out’ and hopefully make your text books more interesting (and bigger – sorry!) Not only that, I am lucky enough to be paid by a Research Council to ‘figure stuff out’ which is a bonus.
My research uses expertise from the Medical School and the Physics Department at the University of Exeter to figure out how and why some compounds are bad for us and why some are good for us. Here’s a little bit about the science…
Fats are made up of compounds called fatty acids. Different types of fatty acids cause all kinds of problems when they build-up in certain places in the body. The body is made up of loads of organs (like the heart and the pancreas) which are made up of things called ‘cells’. What I’m trying to figure out is how fatty acids get inside different types of cells in our bodies. Being able to understand these processes will help us prevent various diseases from developing, for example diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases.
Some of the scientists in my laboratory have been doing some cool work to help people with Type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin, a compound that regulates blood sugar levels so their sugar levels are all over the place which can be dangerous for their health. Check out this video
My Typical Day
There isn’t such thing as a typical day!
Most days I am in the laboratory doing experiments. However, when I’m not in the lab I can be (1) at my desk reading about the most up-to-date research that has been published by other researchers that are doing similar stuff to me, (2) writing about my results and what they mean on the computer, (3) listening to fascinating talks about the research that is going on in my University, (4) representing other PhD students at meetings (with important University people) and getting problems that they may have sorted, or (5) teaching. I am lucky enough to be able to teach chemistry/biochemistry to students who are in the first year of their University degrees.
As you can see, I could be doing lots of different things so even before I can even step into the lab I have to organise my week and work out a plan of what I want to do and when.
What I'd do with the money
I would spend the money on a public engagement project to get the general public excited about science.
One of the doctors at the Medical School runs an outreach programme which gets the public engaged and interested about science. He has a lot of experience with setting up experiments in odd places like shopping centres and has got people to do fun things like extracting DNA from bananas! If I were to win, I would put the money towards putting together my own fun event (with the help of this doctor!) in Exeter to get the public doing interesting experiments and show that science is all around us.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Honest, adventurous, curious
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
When I was 20 years old I was lucky enough get a twelve month internship to work in Holland for a chemical company (Diversey – a chemical company, now part of Sealed Air – they make bubble wrap!). I developed a cleaning product for the company that is on the market and making lots of money. Although it’s not a glamorous accomplishment, I can say ‘I made that’ which I think is cool.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My two chemistry teachers at school: Mrs Kumar and Mr Salisbury
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, it seemed like too much effort to get into trouble! I was a conformist…
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I’m a qualified Alpine Ski Instructor, so if I weren’t in the lab I’d be on the slopes! And if I weren’t on the slopes I’d be an architect.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Years & Years (I’m seeing them live in April and I can’t wait!)
What's your favourite food?
It’s got to be Chinese
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I’ve flown a Cessna! (A Cessna is a small two-seater plane)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
A lifetime supply of chocolate digestive biscuits, a ski chalet and a private jet!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the electron enjoy the chemistry lesson so much? Because he was in his element! (I made that one up myself).
We grow our cells in a sterile environment in special compartments. We call these compartments ‘hoods’. Everything that goes in the hood must be sterile so that we don’t contaminate and kill our cells. To sterlaise equipment we have to spray it with ethanol.
These a pipettes. They are fancy machines that allow you to collect liquids. These are essential because sometimes you have to add very small volumes of stuff to your cells. How else would you collect such small volumes? You can’t use a spoon!