A bit of an empty space in my life now that IAS has finished! What can I fill it with??
Favourite Thing: Although I don’t get to do much of it these days, I still love doing experiments and I always enjoy working in the lab! It is very satisfying to plan and do experiments, and even better when you get the results you were hoping for! We develop ideas and ask scientific questions based on what we know already, and finding out the answers is simply brilliant – even if our ideas are wrong sometimes!
I went to Woodham Comprehensive School in County Durham. My degree was at Staffordshire University and my PhD was at University of Manchester.
GCSEs, A-levels in Chemistry, Biology & Physics, BSc (Hons) Applied Biology, PhD Microbiology & most recently, Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education! (what a swot, eh?!)
After my PhD I worked briefly in a pharmaceutical company before returning to the University of Manchester as a researcher. I love Manchester and stayed there until I left to move up to Edinburgh and start my current job almost 5 years ago! My first ever job though was helping out at an Estate Agent while I was still at comprehensive school followed by working as a waitress at a coffee house which I also did during university holidays!
Lecturer in Medical Microbiology. I have a research group and I also teach undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Edinburgh Napier University
Me and my work
I’m interested in finding out why bad bacteria cause infections, but importantly to also figure out how we can use our knowledge of bacteria to benefit human health, for example by using bacteria for new medical treatments such as to target and treat cancer.
My research mainly uses two bacteria: one is Salmonella – you may have heard of it but if not, ask a grown up about eggs and Edwina Currie! The other one is Listeria – you might not have heard of this one but it can be pretty dangerous, especially to pregnant women. Although they are quite different, both bacteria have things in common – they can both cause food-poisoning from undercooked or raw food and they can both invade human cells if they can get past the body’s defences. We’re trying to understand some of the events that happen when these bacteria are inside the body, which has led us to think that we can actually use bacteria like Salmonella to try and deliver new treatments for cancer directly to tumours.
To be honest, I am a really lucky person because I love being a microbiologist and not only do I get to do exciting research, I also get to teach microbiology and I have a captive audience of students trapped in a lecture theatre who have to listen to me talking about how wonderful bacteria are! What could be better than that?? I could actually talk about bacteria forever so I’m going to stop now, or else we’ll all be here a long time… 😉
My Typical Day
My days usually involve a lot of thinking, reading and writing (about bacteria, of course), sometimes teaching students, but almost always talking with my research students about what they are doing.
There’s no such thing as a typical day for me really. Some days involve meetings with my work colleagues, while other days might involve spending the day away at other types of meetings, such as travelling to London for a meeting with Society for Applied Microbiology Committee (which usually involves getting up at 4.30 am…). Or, I might be preparing for teaching and updating my lecture slides, or making sure that everything is in place for lab classes. Sometimes I get to have a fun part to my day and go into a local school to help with a science activity! Usually though, my days are pretty jam packed!
What I'd do with the money
I would like to use the money to set up a hands-on science evening for young people at a local charity community centre, and to buy them some science-related stuff for young people who visit the centre.
I volunteer at a local community centre where I am a youth befriender of a young person in need of some extra support. The centre (Broomhouse Centre) runs various activities for the local community but many of the young people who visit the centre have challenges in their life that most young people don’t have to worry about. I would like to put on an evening of science fun to show some of the young people how cool science can be, and also buy them some fun science stuff that they can use in the centre. If I can help to get them interested in science, they’ll have something fun and positive to look forward to when they visit the centre and it may even inspire them at school.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Interactive, funny, chatty
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Ooh, a tough one! Probably Gorillaz, but there is also a cool band from New Zealand called Salmonella Dub who are fab!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
This is a tricky one… Is it flying over New York in a helicopter? Or maybe flying to Vancouver Island in a sea plane? Actually no, I would have to say it was making my own haggis, completely from scratch! That was awesome fun and it tasted great! Yum, haggis!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
(1) I would like to live in a big house, with a giant garden so that I can keep chickens and ducks and some dogs, and maybe a goat, and maybe even a donkey, to keep the goat company! (2) To have a never ending pot of research money so that I can keep doing my research and one day become a Professor (3) To be remembered for doing good science, and maybe win the Nobel prize…!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I knew I wanted to do something scientific – something like a pharmacologist so I had a mix of biology and chemistry but I fell in love mith microbes at university and the rest is history!
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
When I was at junior school I did sometimes get into trouble for being too chatty but other than that, I was generally good. Don’t tell anyone but I did pretend to be ill once to get out of cross-country in the rain but I didn’t get caught…
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
The BBC Rotbox! Getting to take part in the making of a science programme was awesome, and I was even on the TV in the programme!
Tell us a joke.
Q. When do you know it’s time for a chemistry teacher to retire…? A. They don’t react!!
This is my office desk – I spend far too much time here!
The other side of my desk looks like this! (complete with emergency supplies of mini-cheddars and animal biscuits) .
My books and furry things are stored over here: