I went to school in Newcastle upon Tyne (1991 – 2003) and studied at the University of Edinburgh (2004 – 2007)
Bachelor of Science degree (BSc) in immunology; PhD in parasitic worm immunology
I spent 3 years after my PhD researching how schistosomes (a type of parasitic worm) activate immune responses as they burrow through the skin (University of York, 2011 – 2014)
Post-doctoral research immunologist focusing on human immune responses in HIV infection and malnutrition
Queen Mary University of London
Favourite thing to do in my job: Discussing ideas and getting creative designing new experiments; it’s great to spend time thinking “what do we want to know?” and “how could we find that out?”
I live in London where I spend my time cycling through the beautiful city, running in parks and nearby woods, swimming outdoors, creative writing and volunteering (when I’m not in the laboratory of course!).
I’m a bit of a coffee addict and I’m well known amongst my friends for talking too much!
I am an immunologist investigating how infections (including parasites) and the treatments that clear them affect the cells of the human immune system.
My Typical Day
My days are very varied, so some days I spend all my time in the laboratory and on others I could be analysing data at my desk or attending a meeting about new discoveries in immunology.
To set up a typical experiment I collect blood samples from healthy and infected people and isolate immune cells so that I can investigate their function; this can take several days and lots of interesting laboratory techniques. I also spend plenty of time answering emails, writing about my experiments, reading about the interesting research being conducted elsewhere, and solving problems in the lab.
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d love to develop an immunology-themed game for school children to play when they visit our science outreach centre here in London
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, Curious, Enthusiastic
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
My favourite moments in science are when you see something happen for the first time. It is a very special feeling to discover something new about the way our biology works, especially as it often takes a lot of attempts to get experiments right
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I’ve always been fascinated by how science can be used to improve health – just look back into the history books at the illnesses that used to be deadly, but now we know how to treat them armed with new drugs and vaccines. Parasites themselves are pretty inspiring too, they get me wondering how on earth they developed the ability to so effectively dodge our immune systems!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was pretty well behaved at school. I loved answering questions, reading books and doing dissections in Biology. I was very quiet then, but nobody believes that now!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one! Most likely I would work for an organisation trying to improve human health and improve access to existing treatments for disease
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I really enjoy jazz – older musicians like Nina Simone and Miles Davis and a much newer band called Roller Trio
What's your favourite food?
Jacket potatoes are my ultimate comfort food
What is the most fun thing you've done?
So many things! Teaching my niece to ROOOOAAAARRR like a lion; swimming in the sea; hiking up mountains; playing board games with a big group of friends…
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d wish for the ability to: 1) run without getting tired; 2) speak every language there is, and, 3) get all of my experiments to work perfectly first time!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the E. coli go to the opera? Because they were cultured bacteria