Michael C Macey
I live with my wife and two poogles (beagle -poodles called Cosmo and Bean) in Milton Keynes. I’m a microbiologist and astrobiologist in the day 👩🔬. I love jigsaws, museums and dressing up the dogs for the holidays!
I am from a small town in Suffolk originally. My sister and I were the first people in my family to go to University, and I am the first scientist in the family. I finished sixth form and my A levels in 2009 and have been studying, researching or working at Universities ever since.
I met my wife in York in our final year of study – she was studying Design at York St. Johns and we have now been dating for 10 years this month.
The dogs are now 3.5 years old 🙂
My pronouns are:
I research extreme environments on earth (salty, hot, exposed to high levels of sunlight) to try and understand how microbes survive at the limits of life. I do this to try and understand how/if life could survive on other planets and how we may be able to detect it if it is there.
My research has taken me all over the world to different salty environments. We are interested in salt because there are thick salt flats on Mars that are left over from when Mars used to be a water-rich planet (billions of years ago).
We can also try and simulate these ancient martian environments using equipment that lets us replicate the specific conditions (e.g., the pressure, temperature chemistry). This lets us test if microbes can survive under these conditions – these are called Mars simulation experiments.
My Typical Day:
I wake up and then walk and feed Bean and Cosmo. I then feed myself and get to work for 9:00, and head to the lab to check on my microbes and experiments (has anything grown??). Then I have lunch with my students and make sure they are doing okay. Then I head to my office, have meetings on work on writing papers to describe my research.
I go home at 5 and walk the dogs again!
Once a month I also give tutorials to a student group on environmental science – this includes learning about ecosystems, nutrients, and interactions between living things and their environment.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I have worked a lot with researchers from across the world, both for research and teaching – I would use the prize money to set up online classrooms for school children around the world to share my research and try and answer their questions.
I went to Aldeburgh Primary School, Leiston Middle and Leiston High School (two of those aren’t open anymore because they now just have one school instead of Middle and High). They were the local schools, and my sister went to the same ones four years before (She is now a music teacher).
My first degree was in Biology from the University of York, and I did an extra year in Denmark at the University of Aarhus as part of an exchange program. I did extra research projects on microbes that live inside earthworm organs and viruses that are in soil.
My PhD was in Microbiology from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, where I lived for four years researching the impact of microbes that grow on plants.
For my GCSEs my electives were Geography, History, French, and Graphic Design.
For AS I did History.
For A-level I did Biology, Geography and Chemistry – Chemistry I found the hardest but my old chemistry teacher (now the headmaster!) was great.
My first job was in a coop supermarket, where I worked every Saturday and Monday from the age of 16 to 18, when I went off to the University of York and Aarhus (in Denmark) to study Biology. I then decided I really enjoyed research and microbes, so got a PhD project at the UEA in Norwich researching microbes that grow on plant roots. I was then incredibly lucky and found a job at the Open University and have been there ever since (six years!).
My current job is researcher in the Astrobiology research team at the Open University – this job is super diverse and no two days are the same. I have three students that I supervise, I do research, I help teach and I write papers.
I work at the Open University, the university of the air. This means that we teach students remotely, using livestreams, forums, websites and all manners of methods to teach people all over the world.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not too often - but my art teacher never really liked me!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would still like to teach!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
We Are Scientists
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Worlds best magician, new magic lamp, freedom for the first genie.
Tell us a joke.
Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies “I’m positive.”