Arporn (Koi) Wangwiwatsin
This feels utterly surreal. Thanks everyone so much for all your energy, questions, and for being here together! Much love! ♡＼(￣▽￣)／♡
Favourite Thing: Looking forward to see outcomes, being part of the discovery, exchanging ideas.
Mahidol Wittayanusorn, Thailand (2005-2007), Cambridge Tutors College, Croydon (2007-2009); University of Bristol, studying Zoology (2009-2012) ???
PhD student at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge
I’m easily excitable over well-thought designs, good musicals, outdoor trips, and of course the natural world and parasites!
I came from Thailand to the UK around 9 years ago and spent time in Folkestone, Croydon, Bristol, and now I’m in Cambridge doing a PhD. All my families are back in Thailand including my husband (Thanks internet!).
I’m crazy about behind-the-scenes of movies and shows and I always sit in a cinema until the end of movie credit. It gets me appreciate the amount of work and the army of people that go into that piece of 2-hour show. I also get crafty from time to time, especially when I want to add a personal touch or when I want something so specific that it’s too time-consuming to look for in shops. Some people have said to me, “Oh Koi, you should be doing art!”, and all I can say is, “I just happened to have many interests!..and actually, science and art are not that different!”
– Love chocolate, smell of coffee, and time with nature.
– Have a (very very good) sense of smell; tend to be the first one who smell something.
– I live in Cambridge but I don’t own a bike.
I use big data to understand life of parasitic worms that can live for over 10 years in human blood.
These worms infect human by burrowing through intact skin, and find their way into blood vessels then spend the rest of its life in the bloodstream – growing up, mating, and releasing eggs into the outside world. The parasite is called Schistosoma mansoni and we sometimes call them ‘Schisto’.
Here is what the adult worms look like under a microscope
The actual size is being compared to a pen in this photo. The worms look blue-ish here because I stained them with chemical dyes.
My interest is largely on the understanding of the parasite biology – what the parasites do in the blood, and whether they sense any cue inside the host that tell them to grow or to move about. By knowing these, it could lead to better protection and treatment for people at risk of infection. Even more, given that the blood is not quite a friendly environment to live in but this parasite can live there for yeeeeeeeeaaars(!), understanding how the worms do that can teach us more about how our bodies work and this might be useful for other blood- and immune-related diseases (maybe).
I used a technique called RNA-sequencing which show how the parasites use different genes over their life time. This technique gives a large amount of information and the next fun job is to make sense of such big data. Because it’s a big data, it also need a large variety of methods and knowledge, so in my work I do not work in isolation but discuss a lot with many experts who kindly share their knowledge and together we will move toward the understanding of the parasite world.
My Typical Day
Data, people, food, emails ? ? ?And the best is learning something new everyday! ? ? ?
Sometimes I learnt something about the parasites from the data; sometimes I learn different ways to look into the data. Sometimes an experiment tells me something (not always good news but I still learn something). Sometimes discussion with people plus reading and writing give me new ideas.
What I'd do with the money
Potentially, possibly, maybe…I always wonder how one might do science communication with a flash mob or an open theatre… I still wonder ;-)
Let me elaborate… One day I was walking about in Cambridge city centre and I saw 2 penguin mascots, each on a unicycle bike and playing trumpet. My first thought (honestly) was that at one point they would collapse and the sad music would be played and they would then go on about climate change… it turned out that they cycled into a department store for its Christmas light switch-on event (of course…!!)… Then this thought stuck with me and maybe something of sort can happen.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, positive, artistic
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Too many to choose from…My taste goes from classic oldies, to jazz, to modern pop, to heavy rock.
What's your favourite food?
Okonomiyaki !! (also known as Japanese pizza)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Living life of an organic farmer for 2 weeks ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Designer designer designer so definitely
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I missed a couple of curfews when in boarding school; the most “memorable” one was missing the night curfew for 3 hours… while shopping for stage show materials…
What was your favourite subject at school?
Computer, mechatronics, biology
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Meet other scientists and learn loads from them!
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My high school biology teachers who showed me the beauty of interconnection in biology, and then my undergrad lecturers who introduced me to the fascination of parasites.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Designer, stage show director, or something to do with music, colours, and mechanic.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) Read all the books I bought/borrowed; 2) learn to play drums; 3) learn lots of DIY skills especially woodwork, metalwork, and ceramic
Tell us a joke.
You know why you feel cold??…Because you are with a coooool person! ?
Me wondering how this experiment will work out.
Image credit: Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited
The parasites spend their life not only in humans but also in snails; therefore, our team have a snail room and we take turn to be the “snail carer”. (We feed them with fish food pellets and ensure the water is clean). Showing here are baby snails and breeder snails.
So to study the parasite biology, I spend a lot of time outside the lab, at my desk looking at lots of data, reading what people have already found, writing down my thoughts, sending emails (usually asking for helps), etc etc… hence I set up a comfortable (and green) workspace for myself.
Sometimes my brain is still blocked and I cannot think clearly. In this case, I need more green! Luckily, my office is close to the exit opening into a big green field. This is known (to me only, but now you too!) as my “Thinking Field”; spending 5-10 minutes walking about on there and it works wonder! ..Possibly, this is my another office.
After all, to me, it’s people who make the place and I’m super super grateful to have friendly and supporting people standing by me through the work. Apart from responding to my many questions, they occasionally give a surprise… like cheerfully showing this banner at my departmental seminar talk(!). (See how the ‘K’ is in a different colour?… That’s because the banner was used for a different name the year before! We recycle/reuse whenever we can ?)
… and looking forward to speak to you soon!!