University of Manchester MRC DTP
Wolfreton School and Sixth Form College 2006-2013, University of York 2013-2017
A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths; MBiol Integrated Masters in Biology
I am the eternal student!
Favourite thing to do in my job: I find chatting with other scientists and the public about my research really motivating and inspiring.
When I'm not thinking about science, I love to get outside and climb hills, bake a cake, or play board games with friends.
I live with my boyfriend in a flat in Manchester. I’m from Hull and we have a large print of the Humber Bridge on the wall to remind me of home (and because it looks awesome). I’m a keen cook and we have an arrangement where I do all the cooking and he does the washing up. My favourite meal to cook is a good curry because you can make it so many different ways; I don’t think I have ever made the same curry twice. I also enjoy baking; the best cake I ever made was a lemon and carraway roulade. Aside from food, I love being outside in the countryside and I actually prefer holidaying in the UK to abroad.
I use the fruit fly to learn about how toxic proteins can build up in our brains as we age and cause a rare form of dementia.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster, to give it its latin name) are surprisingly useful in biological research. Tonnes of important discoveries have been made using them and the most recent Nobel Prize was awarded to a group of Drosophilists (fancy name for people who work with flies). In fact, we share about 75% of our DNA with flies!
Because they are so small and cheap, you can keep thousands and do lots of experiments and generate lots of data. Flies actually have similar behaviours to humans: they can be aggressive, lose motivation, and have memory. Flies have been used to study all kinds of diseases such as epilepsy and rare genetic conditions.
I am interested in how proteins can build up in our brains as we age and cause irreversible damage, causing a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia, named after the parts of the brain that are affected. Not much is known about this rare type of dementia, but we do know that large proteins build up in the brain causing brain cell death. I am putting these proteins into flies and looking at what happens to the flies to work out what the proteins are doing to kill cells.
My Typical Day
Coffee, reading, experiments, snacks, thinking about science, looking after my flies, tea.. Not necessarily in that order.
The wonderful thing about being a scientist is that no two days are the same, and every day has the potential to have a EUREKA moment. Not that this happens very often.. The reality is that I spend half of my time pondering why my experiments aren’t working and how to fix it, but this is half the fun!
After coffee, I usually head over to the Fly Facility where my fruit flies live. I will check they are all happy and set up any genetic crosses I want to do (this is where you put male and female flies with different traits in a tube so they mate and produce offspring that I want to test). This takes up a lot of my day as I have about 1000 flies.
I might also be doing some cool experiments, like looking at cells under a microscope, watching flies climb up a tube, or fly larvae crawl around a dish.
Then with any time I have left I will be drinking cups of tea, snacking, reading scientific papers, or working on my latest blog post and outreach activities.
What I'd do with the prize money
I'd use it to make a cool activity that I could take to events with schools or colleges to show how we can bring different parts of science together to make amazing discoveries.
I am really keen to encourage young scientists in schools and colleges to pursue a career in science, so I would probably use the money to develop cool resources that I could use in one-off workshops or bring along to science fairs. Flies are amazing tools to learn about all kinds of biology, so I would definitely incorporate some weird and wonderful fly mutants into my activity. I would also like to work with scientists from other fields, such as chemistry, to show how important it is to combine different parts of science to get the full picture and get the most out of research. Most importantly it would have to be something fun and a bit wacky.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Inquisitive, slightly wacky
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Probably presenting a poster at the Alzheimer's Research UK Annual Conference in London this year.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
This is a difficult one.. I think a lot of people contributed. I always loved science documentaries on TV, and as I learnt more and more throughout university I was definitely inspired, but in the end it was probably my supervisor for my final year project who convinced me I could be proper full-time scientist.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I actually loved most things in school, I wish I could have done a degree in everything.. except maybe geography.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I was obsessed with CSI, so I really wanted to be a forensic scientist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was a bit of a chatterbox but always managed to avoid detention.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I love cooking and baking, so I would probably try and start my own teashop somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I have such a varied music taste.. either Elton John or Coldplay.
What's your favourite food?
Peanut butter, especially on porridge.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
One summer I filmed my own stop motion animation (like Wallace and Gromit) about four dinosaurs made out of modelling clay.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) I had an incredible memory so I could remember every scientific paper I've ever read. 2) I would love to have a lifetime supply of peanut butter. 3) I wish it wouldn't rain as much in Manchester.
Tell us a joke.
I love cheese puns. They're just grate. I don't give edam about the rest.