What do you do?
I lead a research team that investigates how molecules enter and exit cells. I am particularly interested in the molecule called water. Every year, millions of people of all ages suffer brain and spinal injuries, whether from falls, accidents, road traffic collisions, sports injuries or stroke. To date, their treatment options have been very limited and, in many cases, very risky. My team’s work on how water enters and exits cells gives injury victims and their doctors hope. By using a drug already licensed for human use, we have shown how it is possible to stop the swelling and pressure build-up in the brain and spinal cord that is responsible for long-term harm. While further research will help us to refine our understanding, the exciting thing is that doctors could soon have an effective, non-invasive way of helping brain and spinal cord injury patients at their disposal. In addition to leading my own research team, as a senior scientist and specifically in my role as Associate Dean (Research), I also help to create an environment at my institution (and beyond) that encourages people to do their best science.
Why did you choose this field?
I had two wonderful chemistry teachers, who sparked my love of science and believed in my ability to be a scientist. They encouraged me to apply to study at Oxford University and with their guidance and the belief my parents had in me, I was able to secure a place to go there. I was the first in my family to go to university and I am grateful to my teachers and my parents every day. When my paper in Cell was published (see the next section), Mr Cahill and Mr Atack wrote to me to say how proud they are of me. Bearing in mind I was a school in the 1980s, that tells you something about what wonderful people they are.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
My research team and I have just published a paper in Cell. I never thought a molecular scientist like me could have made a discovery that could save lives. That is a great feeling.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Being the first to see something and make a new discovery is a personal thrill that never goes away.
Best advice for next generation?
Focus on the science that you love; if you do what you love, you will always be motivated to keep going. You should also work with people you trust. That way the science you do will be fun.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Fun fact - I love Twitter. I love science Twitter because people are so supportive and so I learn about all sorts of great research that I wouldn’t otherwise do. Twitter more generally keeps me up-to-speed with the humorous exploits of the human race and other animals!