fun answering questions today
Name of MRC-funded unit/centre/institute
MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
Mackie Academy, Stonehaven (1986-1990)
1990-1994 University of Aberdeen BSc (hons) Genetics; 1994-1998 University of Aberdeen PhD (Microbiology)
My first job after getting my PhD was as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen working on immunology. I then worked for 10 years as a postdoctoral research fellow with one of the great names in fungal infection (again at the University of Aberdeen). During this time I was able to co-write grant applications, and I am now my own boss running my own research projects.
Senior Lecturer & postgraduate academic lead
Favourite thing to do in my job: I like to find out why and how things happen, especially things that no-one else has reported before. I also love telling people about my research and my job, and letting them have a go!
I live with my husband and daughter near Aberdeen in Scotland. We have a dog, two cats, two rabbits, 4 budgies, two lovebirds, 8 geese, 17 ducks (and seven ducklings), 4 turkeys (and newly hatched turkey chicks and too many hens to count (as well as chicks). My favourite food is curry and I sing all the time!
How do fungi cause disease?
My work focuses on finding out how medically important fungi cause infection and disease. Fungi can cause irritating infections like Athlete’s foot or thrush, but in some patients also cause life-threatening disease
In my work, we investigate various properties of fungi to see if they are involved in the ability of the fungus to cause disease. This involves knocking out genes and analysing differences in behaviour. In addition, we are also able to look at how the host behaves during development of disease. We can analyse both the host immune response or we can analyse changes in host gene expression during development of disease. This has become easier with sequencing of host genomes, as we can now analyse gene expression across the whole genome by DNA microarray analysis – very cool!!!!!
I especially enjoy my work because you get to travel the world to attend conferences and speak about your work! In the last two years, I have attended conferences in Tokyo (Japan), Melbourne (Australia), Taiwan and many USA cities, as well as various conferences in the UK
My Typical Day
What’s a typical day...?
This is one of the things that I love about my job… there is no such thing as a typical day. Some days I will be in the lab all day (bliss!) and other days I may be stuck in front of a computer writing scientific papers, dealing with administration, writing grant applications or even analysing data. Other days I might be stuck in meetings about teaching or dealing with running the University or I might be teaching undergraduate or postgraduate students – this can be small group teaching, lectures or practical classes. The days when I can teach and work in the lab are some of my favourite days.
What I'd do with the prize money
Develop some new science activities to take into schools or even the local prison
I carry out a workshop with nursery age kids to demonstrate the importance of hand washing and to show how germs are spread… this year it’s called Epidemic! We use a special UV-powder and cream that shows up under UV or black-light (very CSI!). The kids smear the cream on their hands, or pass around an object covered in the powder, and then can detect the presence of the microbes with the special light. The young kids really love it (me too!). I’d really like to buy more kit, as children aged 3-5 all want to be in control of the detective light.
I have also bought some of the cuddly giant microbes (http://www.giantmicrobes.com/uk) to illustrate what microbes look like, and there’s a few more that would definitely add to my collection. I’d love to buy more mini versions to hand out as prizes!
What I’m doing for the MRC Festival:
Our centre are carrying out a public engagement event at the local railway station called Frightening Fungi on Saturday June 23rd. Visitors can learn how our research is helping to fight the dangerous fungi that invade our body. A range of fun family-friendly activities will be available.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
curious, patient, cheerful
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
created new infection models which help us understand how fungi cause disease in humans
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Had great teachers at school: maths, chemistry, physics and biology
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
I really wanted to be a vet, then didn't really know...
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No - I was always pretty good at following rules
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Vet or farmer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Queen – who doesn’t love them? I also love anything from musicals and Meatloaf (a bit of a mixed bag).
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
tough one... probably all the school workshops at University May Festival
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. Spend more time with my family 2. Have more time in the lab doing experiments 3. Have more free time
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a mushroom who buys everyone at the bar a drink? …a FUN GUY! Sad, I know.