Postdoctoral Research Fellow (research scientist), Queen's University Belfast

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Listen to the advice of your teachers, parents and friends but remember it's your decision what you want to do for your career!

Dr Grace Charlotte Roberts

What do you do?

I research how respiratory viruses interact with lung cells and how this may affect asthma development in children.

Why did you choose this field?

My background is virology - the study of viruses. Ever since I learnt about viruses in college I was really interested in them. We all had to do a short essay in biology A level, and I chose the topic of how likely another pandemic was. This project opened my eyes to the world of virology, and how important it is! Viruses aren't technically "alive" they don't do anything unless they are inside host cells. But once they are inside host cells, they are incredibly selfish - they rearrange the cell to best suit them, they use parts of the cell they need to make more virus, and they stop lots of processes of the cell that it doesn't want/need. There are loads of different viruses - and they are all unique! They all have different ways of doing things - which is partly why it's so hard to treat them.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Just simply having a job as a scientist. I came from a working class background and I never knew of any scientists or what they did. From TV I'd learnt of doctors and nurses and mad scientists - as someone with an interest in biology, I never knew of research or academia until I got to university myself. I never knew of the broad range of jobs in science or what scientists do every day. I'm really lucky and grateful for my job that I really enjoy.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working with cells! In my project, we work with cells that are kindly donated from patients. We get swabs of noses and lungs, then we get the cells from these swabs and grow them using a special method in the lab which lets them develop into something that resembles lung tissue. They produce mucus and grow cilia (the little hairs on lung cells that move mucus around). Once the cells are developed enough, when we look at them under a microscope you can see these cilia waving at you!

Best advice for next generation?

Do what you want to do - what you enjoy! Listen to the advice of your teachers, parents and friends but remember it's your decision what you want to do for your career!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Nothing worth having is easy.” (I always remembered this when studying got hard or when work can be tricky!)

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