I am an animal genetics researcher living in Edinburgh with my six beautiful pet rats 🐁. In my free time I love to watch live music and go to the cinema!
My rats are named May, Sharon, Betty, Jane, Peggy and Maria. They are all named after Marvel comics characters. I love to spend my evenings playing and cuddling with them on my sofa.
I am a huge film fan and I love going to the cinema! My favourite films include The Lion King, Captain American: The Winter Soldier and Jurassic Park.
I listen to lots of music, mainly rock music, and I love going to see my favourite bands live with my friends.
Despite living in Scotland, I am originally Welsh and I am very proud of my heritage, particularly when it comes to rugby!!!
My pronouns are:
I am researching how the expression of genes in Cow DNA is regulated, and how natural differences in DNA sequences of different animals affects this.
DNA is a template for all of the proteins an organism can make, and changes in DNA sequence between individuals can result in different protein sequences.
However, most normal variation we see between different individuals in a species does not occur in DNA that codes for a protein. Instead, it occurs in areas of the DNA outside of protein coding regions, which influences how DNA, and therefore proteins, are expressed in a cell.
We call these regions “regulatory elements”, and understanding where they are and how they work is really important for understanding how organisms function in health and disease, and how certain characteristics can be inherited.
I work at The Roslin Institute, an research facility which specialises in animal biosciences. My lab is studying where these regulatory elements are in cows, and how normal differences in the DNA sequences of regulatory elements between different cows can affect certain characteristics, in the hopes of improving selective breeding approaches to produce healthier, more productive cows.
We are specifically looking at a deadly parasite that infects cows in Southern Africa, in the hopes that we can improve treatment options and selective breeding approaches to breed cows that are more tolerant to this disease.
My Typical Day:
I wake up and have a cup of tea and some cereal with my rats in the living room.
I then cycle 10 miles (!!!) to my workplace through the very centre of Edinburgh, which takes along time! I usually arrive to work around 8.
I then complete experiments in the lab and attend meetings in the morning, and finish experiments and analyse data in the afternoons. I usually try to have a coffee break in the morning around 10:30.
I leave work to cycle home around 4 PM most days.
I am a lab based scientist, and I spend much of my time growing different cow cells in incubators in the lab. My day to day schedule is often determined by how my cells have grown overnight, so I make lots of decisions for my day first thing in the morning. If my cells haven’t grown well, I may not be able to complete any experiments and it will be a data analysis day!
If my cells are growing well, I am usually isolating DNA and RNA from the cells in order to look at how genes are being expressed.
I also frequently work with cow blood from a local dairy farm, where I have to separate the white blood cells from the red blood cells, and then sort the white blood cells into even more specific cell populations. This is a long experiment, and I may work very long days when I have blood to prepare!
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would like to set up some sort of school outreach programme here at The Roslin Institute that is specifically geared towards animal based lab research.
As a student even as far as university, I was not really aware that you could do lab research focusing on animal biology rather than human. It is a career direction that I have found very rewarding, but I still often find younger students are not aware that it is available to them, so I would like to make it more accessible so students considering a future in STEM know of the options available to them
2004 – 2011, St Joseph’s College, Reading
2011-2015, Cardiff University
2015-2019, University of Southampton
GCSEs: Science, Additional Science, Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, Drama, Geography, Music, Latin, Religious Studies, Spanish
AS Levels: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics
A2 Levels: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics
Undergraduate degree (Cardiff University): BSc (Hons) Biochemistry (Biomedical route) with Industrial Placement
Postgraduate degree (University of Southampton): Doctor of Philosophy in Cellular and Molecular Biosciences
2009-2011: McDonald’s crew member
2011-2014: Pizza hut crew member
2013-2014: Industrial Placement research scientist, GlaxoSmithKline
2016-2019: Teaching assistant for Undergraduate laboratory practical sessions
2016-2019: Exam invigilator
2019: Postdoctoral research fellow in Human Health and Disease – University of Southampton
2019-2021: Postdoctoral research fellow in Cancer immunology – University of Southampton
2021: Postdoctoral research fellow in Microbiology – University of Southampton
Postdoctoral research fellow in Functional Genomics – The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
The University of Edinburgh
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Rat-loving animal geneticist
What did you want to be after you left school?
Basically David Attenborough
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Lots of problems with shouting out in class and not completing my homework
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I considered Vet for a while when I was younger
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Thai green curry
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would wish to be happy, comfortable and surrounded by the people I love
Tell us a joke.
"Do you want to hear a joke about sodium?" "Na"