I am PhD student researching genetics in Oxford. I live in Buckinghamshire with my partner where we love to look after other peoples pets 🐶🐱 I also really enjoy baking and crochet 🍰🧶
I grew up in Buckinghamshire and have always had an interest in science and animals. I always wanted to be a vet, but after not achieving the grades I needed (multiple times) I planned on starting a different university degree and transferring over to study veterinary medicine. It turns out that I was far more interested in biological research, so I decided to stick with that route. I did a placement year during my degree at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), London Zoo, where I got to experience conservation and disease research – and I had a great time. I am now studying for a PhD in collaboration with ZSL. I still love animals and I take great joy in pet sitting! I am also an avid baker, and just really love cake 🍰
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I am a PhD student using computational tools to look for viral DNA within the DNA of frogs and toads, to help us understand virus and vertebrate interaction and evolution.
I am researching the DNA of frogs and toads (known collectively as Anura). I am looking for ancient DNA sequences which have been obtained from viruses called retroviruses. These viruses replicate in cells in way which the viral DNA can remain in the host DNA, and when this happens in a sperm or egg cell, the viral DNA can be passed to offspring. A lot of the time the viral DNA is not harmful, but it can give insight into when a species was infected with the virus. The viral DNA can also be useful to the host species. What I am doing is using computational tools to look at the DNA of frogs and toads to find the viral DNA sequences. Another part of my project is collaborating with the Zoological Society of London, specifically, using their frog samples to look at the DNA of a particular species.
A proportion of being a PhD student also means speaking about your work at conferences. This can be a bit daunting sometimes, but overall it is great fun and I have got to visit a lot of amazing places and meet lovely people.
My Typical Day:
As I work with computational tools I can work from home (great if I am pet sitting) or at Oxford Brookes where I am based in a large office with other researchers. I usually start working around 8.30am where I will work on analysing the frog and toad DNA. I take small breaks in the day (as it can be tiring looking at a computer screen for so long!) where I can catch up with my friends. I usually finish working around 4.30/5pm.
My mornings usually consist of catching up with emails – at the moment I am part of a team organising a series of talks at the university so I am often emailing other researchers for this.
My work at the moment is making a road map of the methods I am using to screen frog and toad DNA for viral DNA, to make this procedure streamlined. This means I use coding software, as well as programs which help you look at the DNA sequences. It takes a while to perfect this road map, to make sure everything is running correctly. However, once this is up and running I can use it to look at frog and toad DNA a lot quicker.
What I'd do with the prize money:
As part of my PhD course we engage in public engagement in research. Myself and some of my fellow course mates are interested in running a day at a primary school to engage pupils in different areas of science.
I went to Princes Risborough secondary school for my GCSEs, then to Berkshire College of Agriculture for my A levels, as I also wanted to get practical experience with animals to study veterinary medicine at university. I did biology, maths, chemistry and physics – but I dropped physics in my second year. I failed maths and chemistry, so I ended up doing three years at college.
I studied Veterinary Bioscience at the University of Surrey where I did a placement year at the Zoological Society of London, London Zoo. I also got the opportunity to spend six weeks studying in Brazil, at the University of São Paulo which was an amazing experience. I then went on to study a master’s degree in One Health and Infectious Disease jointly between the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Now I am about halfway through a bioscience PhD between Oxford Brookes University, Oxford University and the Zoological Society of London.
One Health and Infectious Disease Master’s degree – Merit.
(Royal Veterinary College)
Veterinary Bioscience Undergraduate degree – First Class.
(University of Surrey)
A Levels: Biology A; Chemistry B; Maths B; Extended project B.
Level 1 award in Work Based Animal Care.
Level 2 certificate in Enterprise and Employability; Level 2 certificate in Preparation for Working Life; WJEC certificate in Religious Studies.
GCSEs: Biology A; Chemistry B; Additional Science B; Maths B; Additional Maths C; English Literature B; English Language B; French B; Art A; Textiles A*.
Sales & Stockroom Assistant, NEXT plc.
GDPR Compliance Administrator, Deluxe Entertainment
Volunteering: veterinary centres; wildlife hospital; kennels and catteries; farm work
I am just starting my third year of a four year course called Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership. Which is basically a course to study a PhD in bioscience, and my field is genetics.
I am a student at Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University and I also collaborate with the Zoological Society of London.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
animal-loving genetics researcher
What did you want to be after you left school?
I planned on becoming a vet but I was not successful in getting the grades at A level. I went on to study veterinary bioscience at university where I found I really enjoyed research.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really! I think I got after school detention once for giggling in a lesson but I was too scared to cause any trouble!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
If I was not studying for a PhD I think I would have gone into laboratory work.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
My favourite band is First Aid Kit and my favourite singer is Julia Jacklin 😍
What's your favourite food?
As a baker I feel it is only right to say my favourite food is cake
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
That I was more confident (I get nervous when talking to new people), that I was better at maths and that I could speak to animals (these don't have to be realistic...)
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a frog that lies? An am-fib-ian