I live in Suffolk with my husband, two sons (aged 8 and 11), a dog, four horses, a cat, a chicken, two guinea pigs and a hamster.
I’m passionate about horses and feel very lucky to do research that aims to benefit horse health and welfare.
I always enjoyed science at school but never knew what I wanted to do. So I just kept studying the subjects that I enjoyed the most. This led me to do a PhD on stem cells. After this, I spotted a job being advertised to work with horse stem cells. I thought this sounded brilliant having always ridden and owned horses. I have now been working with horse stem cells for the past 18 years.
My pronouns are:
My research group uses stem cells from horses to develop new treatments for tendon injuries and to understand more about the genetic basis of bone fractures in Thoroughbred racehorses.
We use pluripotent stem cells. These cells can turn into every cell type of the body and grow forever in the lab. This means that we can use them to generate cells that the body is naturally poor at regenerating. For example, the injuries to tendons generally heal by forming scar tissue and this is not as strong as the original tissue which makes it susceptible to re-injury.
We also use the stem cells to make models of “diseases in dish”. We can turn them into the cell type that is affected in the disease to understand more about the disease process. We can also make the stem cells from different horses that have different genetic backgrounds so that we can understand more about how genetics can predispose to risk. For example, racehorses suffer from bone fractures which often result in the horse being put to sleep (horses are too big to immobilise them for long periods of time). We have used stem cells to make bone cells from horses at high and low genetic risk of fracture to understand why some horses are more at risk of having a fracture.
My Typical Day:
I get up and sort out all the animals, take the kids to school and start work. This usually involves lots of meetings to discuss experiments and results with my team. Then its back to picking up the kids and doing all the animals again!
No two days are ever exactly the same. I work closely with all my team and my students to help them plan and interpret their experiments and results. Sometimes I am busy writing grant applications to get money to do more research. Sometimes I am writing up scientific papers. I spend a lot of time finding out about other research that is going on, either at scientific talks/conferences, or reading research papers, or talking to other people. This all helps me to come up with new ideas for the next stages of our research.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would use it to help students who cannot undertake work experience for financial reasons to be supported.
I have had a lot of work experience students over the years and I know this really helps them to secure jobs afterwards. However, I know that not all students can afford to do work experience that doesn’t pay them and this seems very unfair. I would therefore use it to help provide an opportunity for those students to do work experience (e.g. paying for their transport etc).
I went to Lightcliffe primary school and then Bradford Girls Grammar School until I was 18.
I got 9 GCSEs and 4 A-levels.
I did a BSc in genetics at the University of Leeds. Then I stayed on and did a PhD for 3 years in human stem cells.
After my PhD I worked as a post-doctoral scientist at the Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket deriving horse stem cells.
After two years, this unit closed down and in 2007 I moved, with my research, to the Animal Health Trust which was also in Newmarket. During this time I built my own research group with PhD students and post-doctoral scientists.
In 2020, the Animal Health Trust closed down and I moved my research to the Royal Veterinary College.
I am currently a senior research fellow at the Royal Veterinary College
Royal Veterinary College
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
horse-loving stem cell biologist
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had no idea!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No I was always very well behaved
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I don't know but definitely something in science
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don't have a favourite but like listening to a wide range of things depending on my mood
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To have a healthy and happy life for myself and my family
Tell us a joke.
A man walked into a bar.....ouch.