Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (2010-2012), Durham University (2007-2010), Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls (2003-2007), St Leonards (2001-2003), Southbank International School in London (1999-2001)
Master of Science (ScM) in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology; Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biology; A-Levels Biology, Chemistry, Maths, French
Mainly internships so far! Including at the World Health Organisation (Switzerland) and GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines (Belgium)
Immunology PhD student
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Favourite thing to do in my job: Coming up with my own ideas and then testing them in the lab… even better when it works!
I try to understand how a virus can ‘age’ the cells of your immune system!
I am really interested in our immune system and how we can use vaccines to direct our immune cells to protect people from nasty diseases. There are many different things that can change the way your immune cells respond to vaccines though, which can change how well the vaccines work. Age is a good example of this- elderly people don’t respond as well to vaccines because their immune cells are more mature. There is even a fancy word for it: immunosenescence.
What’s really interesting is that there is a type of virus, called cytomegalovirus, that can cause very similar effects. If you’re infected with cytomegalovirus, then your immune cells can change and act like what you might expect from your grandparents! My work looks at how immune cells in people with cytomegalovirus respond to vaccines, compared to people without cytomegalovirus.
My Typical Day
I go back-and-forth between doing experiments in the lab, and analysing data and writing reports at my computer in the office
I get into work about 9:30am and make a list of the top three things I want to get done during the day while I drink my coffee. Usually it’s a combination of reading (there is a lot of new research to keep up with!), analysing my own data, and maybe getting into the lab do an experiment. I also am spending a lot of time writing at the moment because I am getting near the end of my PhD so am working on my thesis.. it’s almost 30,000 words so far… Days in the lab are great because they get you away from your desk and moving around- it’s cool to actually do something! I normally leave between 6:30-7:30pm, but it depends if I have an experiment that last a realllly long time or if I have found something interesting and can’t stop! Other people in my lab work completely different hours though, you can usually organise work to suit you best.
What I'd do with the prize money
Buy materials for really fun hands-on experiments to take into schools
I work at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and there are many enthusiastic ‘STEMNET’ volunteers who go into primary and secondary schools and talk about the kind of research we do and why science is so fun! Some people take in giant stick insects and that is always really popular, so I’d like to buy more materials and equipment for other people to be able to take into schools. It’s much more exciting to hear about science if you get to take part!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Motivated, adventurous, funny
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I got to visit research sites in rural Burkina Faso (West Africa) to see how they run malaria vaccine clinical trials
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really, although they introduced a special rule about shoes at my secondary school because I used to walk around barefoot…
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Visited the Galapagos Islands and swam with penguins… and sharks!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To discover something that helps improve health worldwide, to (properly) learn French, and to stay in a job that lets me travel
Tell us a joke.
Did you hear the joke about the cloud? … Never mind, it’s over your head.