Really enjoying the live chats!
Imperial College London, University of Nottingham, The Blyth-Jex School
MSc Developmental Biology, BSc Biology, Biology, Chemistry & Geography A-levels
South-West Ambulance Service, The John Innes Centre, WH Smith
PhD Student and A-Level Tutor
Brighton & Sussex Medical School
I cut and paste DNA in an attempt to find the cause of blood cancer
Multiple Myeloma is a type of blood cancer where the bone marrow and blood get completely taken over by white blood cells. Patients suffer from bone pain, fractures, tiredness and kidney damage. The survival rate varies from patient to patient, depending on their age and genetics. At the moment, we do not fully understand what happens in cells to lead to myeloma and the treatments we have work for some people but not others.
I work on a gene called DIS3. DIS3 is mutated in many myeloma patients but as yet, we don’t know why. When DIS3 is mutated it means that the DNA is changed and becomes faulty. How does this faulty DNA lead to blood cancer? This is what I’m trying to find out.
I work in a laboratory where a lot of what we do is genetic manipulation. This essentially means I cut out pieces of DNA from cells and watch to see how they behave!
All the work I do is on a very tiny scale. I grow cells originally taken from blood cancer patients that have been ‘immortalised’ so they grow and grow and grow without stopping, essentially meaning they can live forever. These cells need looking after, almost like pets, I have to feed them every couple of days and keep them warm in an incubator! When I have enough of them, I extract their DNA and create millions of copies of it in a test tube. Then I can analyse it with tiny molecular probes which allows me to see what is going on within the cells. I can then compare what happens in healthy cells compared with cancer cells.
As well as looking at their DNA, sometimes I need to look at the cells under the microscope to watch how they are growing. Sometimes I need to make them fluoresce brightly with different colours so I can track certain proteins as they move around inside! Like this:
My Typical Day:
Feeding cells to editing DNA to looking at cells under the microscope
What I'd do with the prize money:
Bring scientists to schools!
I think it’s really important for young people to be able to interact with scientists and see that most of them are just ordinary human beings, many of who have a sense of humour and all of who were kids once too. By getting the chance to spend time with real scientists I think more young people will be inspired to take up related subjects and pursue careers in science.
I’d like to bring scientists into schools to run hands-on interactive workshops. For example, we could extract DNA from strawberries and put it in a necklace! We could make our own slime, make worms glow in the dark, make a balloon rocket, build our own volcano and much more! The scientists would be on hand to explain the science behind the experiments, as well as getting messy and having fun!
The scientists could also bring some of their real equipment and kits into schools and set up demonstrations to show pupils what they do on a day-to-day basis.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Silly, Adventurous, Inspiring
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My biology teacher and university lecturers
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes for crossing the school playing field outside of a PE lesson! Landed me a detention! Oh and also for wearing earrings
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Teacher or a Vet
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I have many!
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tubing down a river in the rainforest!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To make a real impact on people’s lives, live a happy and fulfilled life and go travelling around the world for a year!
Tell us a joke.
Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road? He didn’t have the guts!