Bruriah high School (near New York City), ’89-93
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia): ’93-’97 BAs in English and Biology; University of Colorado (Denver): ’98-’00 M.Sc. in Immunology; Cambridge University: ’05-’09 Ph.D Immunology
Several summer internships, starting from when I was in high school, near my home and also abroad (If you like to travel, science is great!) Worked part-time in labs to pay for my university tuition fees and gain hands-on experience, then worked as a research assistant at Cambridge University after my Masters/before my Ph.D.
Postdoctoral research associate
I’m a bit of a random American chick who somehow ended up in England (it involved a man). Worked as a lab manager/reasearch assistant here for about 4 years mainly on heart disease, then went for my Ph.D. Sometimes I regret not going into teaching even though I LLLLLLLLLLLOVE reasearch, so here and there I do things like this program or some science writing (for instance, go to www.thenakedscientists.com for some of my articles and just in general a really good website). Other than that, what might y’all want to know? Hmmm….I guess I used to indulge in actual hobbies (eg trekking, [skiing, cycling, piano-playing, writing bad fiction, listening to loud music while doing some pretty dodgy cooking, etc.) but I now have a toddler so my main hobbies seem to be geared towards his urges like watching CBeebies (not so much fun) and jumping on the bed (lots of fun).
Right, more on lab work: Have been studying something called signal transduction. This is basically the biochemistry of how cells sense that they have to react to something and how they then get the job done. My fave cells are T cells, which are the main ones that the AIDS virus infects. I ask which molecules the T cells use to help them respond to infection, allergens, and tumours, or to cause autoimmune disease (this is where the immune system attacks the body, like in diabetes although I don’t actually study diabetes, it’s just a name you might have heard). I’m quite interested in how to use what we learn about biochemistry to make medicines. For instance, did you know that the immune system can fight off cancer? If it didn’t, more people would get it and much more often. I’d really like to use what I am learning to figure out how to get T cells to start fighting again the tumours that they haven’t managed to get rid of yet. Here is a picture I took of lymph nodes and spleens, where I get my T cells from. On the right are ones that have a lymphoma. Notice anything different compared to the ones on the left?
My Typical Day:
Experiments or writing or reading or meetings or procrastinating, depending on the day.
Drink coffee while checking emails, dissect mice, muck about in the lab trying to pull out their cells to inject into another mouse, drink a coffee and eat a chocolate bar, jog to the other end of campus to measure tumours in some other mice, pop my head into lab to make sure students are OK with their experiments, write up my lab book while thinking about eating another chocolate bar, finish off day reading or writing scientific articles or designing posters/figures while simultaneously darting 1 line emails back and forth to my brother. Variations on this day involve: Doing in vitro assays (work done mainly in a petri dish not a mouse, eg in this picture where I am culturing cells in some pink ‘broth’ filled with all the nutrients they need. I am working in a tissue culture hood, which sucks all the air up away from my cells so that all the bacteria and fungus that normally live in the air don’t drop into the cells), going to lots of meetings and seminars, eating a muffin or my actual lunch instead of chocolate bars. This is a bit of a joking description, but it is not too far off from the truth. Biology is really laid back and social and you use all different parts of your brain and body…we have a lot of chats while doing experiments (often about science) or trying to help each other improve our experiments. These can be while we are sitting next to each other in the office or in formal meetings and seminars….sometimes in exciting places (I am going to a conference on the beach in Greece the week before you’ll be reading this). There will be months when you spend most of your time writing, but that’s rare unless you are the boss…. You can get all artistic and creative when preparing your data for others to look at … One of my favourite things though is that it is so physical…you spend much more time running around than sitting at a computer, I’d HATE that. And you don’t have to wear suits or anything.
What I'd do with the prize money:
Write a song about science with you guys, get it professionally video’ed and posted on YouTube.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Inquisitive fun-loving Mommy
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No. I wasn’t crazy about school, but I knew I had to do well to go to uni. And if I went to uni, then I could move out of my parents’ house, so I was a good girl and tried to concentrate. I saved up my naughtiness for home.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
More money, more pets, have my best mate move in to the house next door.
Tell us a joke.
WHy did the punk rocker cross the road? He was stapled to a chicken.