What do you do?
I am a scientist looking at how the 24-hour body clock keeps our musculoskeletal system healthy. My job involves thinking about ways to find this topic out, how to do the experiments and looking at what the results mean. A bit like a CSI on TV, but instead of coming up with different techniques on how to find out who was the suspect, I get to do many different experiments to answer a research question.
Why did you choose this field?
I had an excellent science teacher in secondary school (Highbury Fields School, London), Elizabeth Lyon, who got me interested in the subject. I also knew from doing a work experience placement at a chemical engineering company, one I found in the Yellow Pages after looking under “Chemistry”, that I did not want to have an office job.
What ultimately made me choose to go down the route of academic research was my placement year at university. My degree was Biomedical Sciences with Industrial Experience at the University of Manchester. I went on placement in a small town in Germany - to a lab in the research centre of Boehringer-Ingelheim in Biberach an der Riß. My supervisor Bastian Hengerer taught me how to culture cells and measure gene expression. He gave me a lot of independence in designing experiments - he allowed me to have a go and learn by doing. There were also no limitations to what techniques I wanted to learn and I had fun doing it.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I can’t remember ever thinking of doing a PhD - the thought had never crossed our minds where we came from. I think I really only considered it after my placement in Germany. I had the best time doing my PhD, I learnt much more than science and made the best friends. I was very proud of my thesis and even more chuffed when I got to attend international conferences and present it to the scientific community and when the work was published and all my friends and family could see it too.
Why do you love working in STEM?
It’s challenging. I know it sounds cliché but as a researcher, I get to manage my own project and that’s scary, but when an idea you have works out, it gives you so much joy and satisfaction. However, as many other scientists will tell you, things don’t always work, so when they do, you have to celebrate them!
Best advice for next generation?
Be proactive – do some reading around the subject you’re interested in, go and email people who are doing what you want to do for a chat or a work placement, and ask questions. It's important to stay inquisitive. And have fun! If it makes you happy then do it, whether it’s in STEM or not.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
At my first international conference, the font in my presentation all turned to Greek symbols and I looked horrified but I knew my work and continued and even made such a good impression that I was invited back to help organise the next meeting! Now I always make sure I double-check all my slides when I transfer them on a USB to another computer!