I’m Rebecca, a PhD student at the Earlham Institute in Norwich. I study the DNA of endangered mammals to help save them from going extinct.
I live in Norwich, which is a great city full of different things to do! I enjoy paddle boarding on the rivers around the city and going for walks out in they countryside or near the coast.
From a young age I was passionate about nature and wildlife. It was only once I started studying Biology at university did I realise my interest in research and experimental work that has gotten me to where I am today. I’ve worked for animal charities, in zoo’s and out in the field so to say my qualifications have taken me places would be correct!
My pronouns are:
I am currently a PhD student in conservation genomics (I look at the DNA of endangered mammals).
I am currently a PhD student in conservation genomics (I look at the DNA of endangered mammals). A PhD is like a job, but you are still technically a student. It is something you can do after doing your first degree at university. I will do this PhD for 4 years and after I will become Dr Shaw! The PhD period is designed for you to gain skills in a scientific field and work on projects that will lead to new discoveries or findings on a particular topic.
In my job I look at the DNA of two species of Mustelid – the Black-footed ferret and the European polecat. The Black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals in North America and I am trying to uncover any signs in the DNA that show anything that could be harmful to the survival of the species.
The European polecat is found in Britain and mainland Europe. It was once endangered in Britain, but has now recovered, although the populations in Europe are declining. I am looking at the DNA of the European polecat to understand if almost going extinct in Britain had an impact.
I have worked in labs doing experiments, but mostly now do bioinformatics. That is, programming and looking at big datasets of DNA on my laptop to look for patterns.
My Typical Day:
A typical day starts around 6-7am when my cat tries to wake me up. I usually cycle into work and will get there for 9am. When I get to the office I will normally first reply to any emails that I have.I will then usually have a coffee break at 11am with other students or friends in my office. My work involves sitting at my laptop for most of the day, I use coding to analyse big datasets of DNA. I work until 5/6pm most days.
A typical day starts around 6-7am when my cat tries to wake me up. I usually cycle into work and will get there for 9am. On Monday and Thursdays I do a gym class in the morning with some people that I work with.
When I get to the office I will normally first reply to any emails that I have. These can be from my supervisor to arrange meetings, from colleagues about work I am doing or to arrange teaching timetables and any fun activities that I am doing with the other students.
I will then usually have a coffee break at 11am with other students or friends in my office. On Wednesdays the students have coffee or lunch together and go for a walk around the campus.
I work until 5/6pm most days. I am always working on my laptop, either doing some coding to do analyses or trying to write up all the results I have. I have to submit a thesis next year, which is a large document containing all the work I have done throughout my PhD. I will also try to write papers which are shorter reports that can be published so that other scientists or interested members of the public can read it.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would want to make sci comm more accessible for the schools around my area. We have noticed the lack of funding schools within our area have for attending these sorts of events and so I would do this by bringing interactive and interesting lessons to them!
Bridge of Don Academy (2005-2011)
University of Aberdeen (2011-2015)
University of Glasgow (2015-2016)
8 Standard Grades (As and Bs)
Higher: English, Chemistry, Biology, Modern Studies, Media Studies and Psychology.
Advanced Higher: English and Biology
I worked in restaurants and bars during school and university.
During and after my masters degree I was a zookeeper at Edinburgh Zoo working mostly with penguins.
I had voluntary research assistant jobs in Glasgow and South Africa.
I still volunteer (as it looks good on your CV) for the RSPB and for STEM events.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Adventurous, caring and determined.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had loads of ideas! But mostly a vet or biologist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, I got in trouble a lot for talking and not doing my work!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I love Kings of Leon.
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To be content in myself and not compare myself to others. To be more confident in myself. To find happiness in everything I do!
Tell us a joke.
why is a bee's hair always sticky? because it uses a honey comb....