King’s School, Canterbury (1999 – 2004), Newcastle University (2005-2008, 2009-present)
A levels – Maths, Biology, Latin. Classical Studies BA (2:1 with Hons), Human Genetics (1st with Hons), Masters of Research in Mitochondrial Biology and Medicine (Distinction)
Newcastle University Sports Centre, Wetherspoons, Covance, NHS.
Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Newcastle University.
PhD Student from Canterbury, living in Gateshead, who runs half marathons for fun!
I live in Gateshead (the other side of the river from Newcastle!) in 2-bed flat near the Tyne Bridge. I’m the eldest of 5 girls (!) and am the only member of my family in science! I have always loved human genetics – it was one of the areas of biology I just naturally understood. I had to work a bit harder on ecology and plants!
I’m a member of a local running club, the Saltwell Harriers, and particularly love running half marathons and 10k races. I was on Blue Peter when I was 10, I sing loudly when I’m cooking and I used to compete for GBR in fencing.
I’ve worked in industry doing drug testing, for the NHS testing patient samples for cancer mutations and now in an academic lab doing scientific research so I have almost worked in many different science jobs! I also volunteer at the MakerFaire UK every year (science and engineering festival – really cool!) in Newcastle – I’ve spoken about space, taught people how to solder and made giant bubbles.
I’m a PhD Student studying how certain proteins work in the mitochondria.
I work at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research based at Newcastle University. We are unique in that we work very closely with the NHS Diagnostics group and are able to use patient samples (with permission). We try and work out why the patients are sick and in doing so, we can work out what the different proteins in the mitochondria do with the hope of discovering new treatments and therapies for these patients.
Our group was recently in the news because we had developed a new technique based on IVF that allowed women with unhealthy mitochondria to have healthy babies by using a donor. The law was changed so that we could start using this new technique.
My Typical Day
Growing-up different cell types in flasks, breaking the cells open and looking at their proteins.
I’d get into work and check to see that my cells are healthy and not hungry (we have special media that will change from red to orange/yellow if they have used up the energy source in the media, glucose). I will either harvest the cells to be experimented with, or give them fresh media (with more glucose!) to keep them happy.
If I am doing an experiment on the cells, I will need to break them open to get to the mitochondria inside. We use detergents and other chemicals to break the cells open, and sometimes we have to grind them. Once opened, I can perform further experiments to see how much of certain proteins, RNA or DNA are in my samples.
Depending on what has changed in the cells, we can start to work out what these certain proteins do in the mitochondria. The more we know about the mitochondria, the better we can treat the patients!
What I'd do with the prize money
Promote mitochondrial research and mitochondrial disease in local schools and public events.
Create videos detailing what we do, some of the techniques we use and what its like to work in a lab! These would be used in local schools promoting science in general as well as focusing on mitochondrial research.
Produce some pieces to be used in public engagement events including patient engagement events, so that people can better understand our research and try and bridge the gap between scientists and non-scientists.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Sociable, sporty, geeky!
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Worked with patients suffering from mitochondrial disease to produce some personal artwork for public engagement!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Rosalind Franklin – helped in discovering the structure of DNA, and my best friend who was doing a biochemistry degree!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes! I was given a 3hrs detention for having a water fight indoors….
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Probably an accountant – most of my family are in finance!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Cheesecake… or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups…
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Performed in an Improv sketch at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Be happy, Love your job, be true to yourself!
Tell us a joke.
What did the biologist wear on his first date? Designer jeans.