Can't wait to answer some questions!
Peterhead Academy (2000-2006), University of Aberdeen (2006-2011)
BSc Marine Biology (1st class honours), PADI Open Water Diver, RYA Powerboat 2
Chinese Takeaway and WH Smith!
PhD Student in Molecular Biology
University of Aberdeen
Favourite thing to do in my job: Radioactive in situ hybridization (ISH). We take a radioactive substance and make it stick to the gene we are looking for to see where we can find it!
Discovering how Atlantic salmon tell the time.
My work looks at how young salmon can use daylength (also called photoperiod) to know when seasons are going to change. Atlantic salmon make long journeys or migrations from the rivers where they are born out to the big bad open ocean to feed for a couple of years before coming home to their rivers to spawn (have babies!). Before they go to the sea, the fish have to change their behaviour, their looks and their biology to help them survive. A photoperiod signal is sent to the brain of the fish, which then decides which genes are to switched on and which are to be switched off. By changing which genes are on and off, the fish can change its behaviour, looks and biology!
My Typical Day
Coffee, Email, Lab Work, REPEAT!
I spend most days working in my lab, the picture below is of my rather messy bench!
One technique I use a lot is cloning. This does not mean that I make copies of fish, just bits of their DNA! The picture shows colonies of bacteria which have bits of DNA inserted into them!
If we want to check the size of bit of DNA we have inserted, we do a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and run the product on a special gel with a marker which we can compare out samples to to find out their size.
Another thing I do a lot of is qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction, eek!). All this does is look at how much a gene is expressed in different samples. The picture below shows a typical result from this method (I really just love all the colours!)
What I'd do with the prize money
MASTS Comedy Showcase at the Edinburgh Science Festival
My PhD is funded by MASTS (Marine Alliance of Science and Technology Scotland), which runs a highly interactive graduate school. At the recent MASTS annual meeting, some of the grad school students decided that we should try putting together a science comedy act to perform at th Edinburgh Festival next year. Although this is still just at idea stage, the money would help us to cover any costs which this may generate. The Edinburgh Festival attracts huge numbers of people and would be an excellent platform for communicating the science of a lot of students from universities all across Scotland.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Messy, Enthusiastic and Holiday-Loving!
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Discovered new genes! (and got sent to Barcelona to present my findings!)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Love of the sea encouraged me towards marine science
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only for the odd bit of chatting here and there!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A singer! (I can dream….)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Damien Rice (and Green Day)
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Scuba Diving in the Red Sea!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To spend as much time as possible with family and friends, to travel the world and have a lovlely chocolate labrador :-)
Tell us a joke.
Why don’t polar bears eat penguins? They can’t get the wrappers off! ……oh dear, that’s terrible…