Over the moon to have won - thanks to everyone who voted!
Hellesdon High School (2000-2006), University of Leicester (2006-2009)
A-levels, Bachelor of Science (BSc)
University of Reading & University of Surrey – Intern at Thermo Fisher Scientific
Senior Development Scientist
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Favourite thing to do in my job: Looking at new compounds that kill or colour bacteria – getting the results make me look forward to going into work!
I make agar (kind of like jelly!) that allows the detection of hospital superbugs and bacteria that cause food poisoning
My job is to develop culture media, which is made of agar (derived from seaweed and like jelly) and lots of other things including sugar that help bacteria grow. We make culture media so that it grows only certain bacteria that cause illness, such as the superbug MRSA that causes nasty infections. Microbiologists use our products to find out what’s making patients ill, so that doctors can give the right treatment.
Lots of different things go into making culture media so that only bacteria that cause disease grow – they can also be coloured using enzyme substrates. Making culture media is a bit like baking a cake – you just have to modify the recipe a lot to get the desired result ! Here’s what an agar plate with bacteria growing on it looks like:
The products I develop are used to help make patients better, quicker, which ultimately saves people’s lives (which is pretty cool, eh?). At the moment I’m working on making a product which detects bacteria that cause food poisoning, so that it doesn’t end up in a supermarket making people sick.
My Typical Day
I’ll spend half the day at my desk planning and writing up experiments and the other half at my lab bench with a petri dish in one hand and an inoculating loop in the other!
When I get into work, most days I’ll spend an hour or so at my computer researching and planning experiments. These experiments generally begin with making agar that I’ll later test. When developing agar for detecting bacteria that cause food poisoning, I test food such as chocolate and spinach. After a night in the incubator, this food can be seriously stinky and something that was a nice salmon fillet is now something a stray cat would decline – this can be my typical face opening an incubator first thing in the morning……
Luckily you get used to the smell!
Other than doing lab work, I also spend some of my time generating content for our Facebook and Twitter pages, and also blogging; our scientists love blogging and this is how we sometimes share ideas.
What I'd do with the prize money
Either make a kit that I can take round schools and science outreach events to show how AWESOME microbiology is or publish an eBook on microbes
I’m still a little undecided on what I would spend the money on but I’m swaying more towards the idea of a book on the wonderful world of microbes. Perhaps you judges could help me decide!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
geeky, ambitious, friendly
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Going to conferences – I love finding out about the latest research. I think taking part in ‘I’m a scientist’ now tops that!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Learning that some of the most ground breaking discoveries are made my accident – Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming leaving a window open – made me realise someone clumsy like me could also be a scientist!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Doing something crafty – I love sewing and making things!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This really depends on my mood but I love Beyonce, Arcade Fire and The Beatles
What's your favourite food?
Percy Pigs. I could eat a pack every day if I didn’t care about my teeth!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Going to Glastonbury in 2009 to celebrate the end of my exams.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. Speak any language, 2. Ability to cook and bake without a recipe, 3. Have a tree which grows Percy Pigs
Tell us a joke.
Why can’t you trust atoms? They make up everything