Can't believe this is finishing soon. Had a great time!
John Hanson Community School (2004-2007); South Wilts Grammar School (2007-2009); University of Sussex (2009-2012); University of Southampton (2012-)
BSc in Molecular Medicine; MRes in Biomedical Research
I’ve only had two real jobs: working as a scientist (which I’m still doing) and working in Tesco (which I did during school/uni)
Cold Wrangler/PhD Researcher
University of Southampton
Favourite thing to do in my job: I’m sure that loads of us say this: discovering something and knowing that no one else has ever seen what you’re seeing right in front of you… And knowing that you’re the one that made that thing happen!
I infect lung cells with the cold and see how they react
Absolutely everyone will catch a cold at some point in their lives– that’s why its’ called the common cold. For most people you just get ill for a few days and, before you know it, you’re healthy again. In people that suffer from asthma they tend to catch colds more often than others, they end up feeling worse and for longer periods of time. My PhD is aiming to figure out why this is the case.
Colds are caused by Rhinoviruses– a family of small viruses that are spread via the air and when you breathe them in, they will make some of the cells in your nose and lungs their homes by infecting them. During the infection, the virus takes advantage of all your normal cell processes to make lots and lots more copies of themselves with the aim to spread to even more of your airway cells before being released back into the air when you cough/sneeze them out.
Obviously your cells don’t want to be used as a breeding ground for the cold– which is why they have loads of defense mechanisms to stop the viruses from infecting them or, if they do get infected, to get rid of the viruses as quickly as possible.
To stop the cells getting infected they have something known as the physical barrier. One part of the physical barrier is all the snot (mucous) that lies on top of the cells as it’s super sticky and traps all the viruses so you can cough them up or swallow them (as your stomach acid kills the Rhinovirus).
Though the cells don’t want to get infected, sometimes they don’t get what they want (like us!) and end up getting infected by Rhinovirus. When the virus enters the cell, there are a number of sensors that activate a signalling cascade which acts a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers– telling the nucleus of the cell (the ‘brain’ of the cell) that it’s infected.
The cell will then start altering its’ behavior to stop the virus from being able to replicate in there. It will send out danger signals called cytokines and chemokines which get detected by immune cells and causes them to come to the cells to help clear up the infections. They also release these really important chemicals that I study called the Interferons.
Interferons are danger signals to the cells next-door to warn them that there’s an infection around and makes them start protecting themselves even more to stop the cold from both getting in and also to stop it from replicating if it does get in. We know that people with asthma have less Interferons released when they get infected with Rhinovirus– so we’re trying to find out if the neighbouring, uninfected cells don’t protect themselves as well as in healthy people!
My Typical Day
I can either be found prodding cells or prodding the things my cells make
What I'd do with the prize money
Take the Team Lung activity to even more schools
Here at Team Lung we have one mission: to get people to understand breathing and wheezing. We’ve been able to take our Team Lung activity to a few local schools and also to the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival– but we want to take it further!
If I won the money, I would be using the money to buy the resources that’d mean Team Lung could go out to more schools and more festivals to teach as many people as possible about how your lungs work!
Activities we currently do on Team Lung are:
Making lung models
Making edible snot
Exploring the insides of the lung of bronchoscopy models
What it’s like to be an asthmatic
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, Enthusiastic, Outgoing
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I got to do science demonstrating at Bestival and Glastonbury over the last few summers– was ace!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I had a really cool science teacher at school– Mr. Barker– who always had the best science stories to share. After explaining all the science behind the ‘Umbrella Murder’ I realised science could be applied everywhere, so why not become a scientist
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yep, I seemed to think I was a quiet and stealthy when whispering to my friends… Turns out not so much!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I can write a mean story, so probably an author.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I can never decide on a favourite favourite– so have my top 5: Coldplay, Muse, Phoenix, Kings of Leon and Palma Violets
What's your favourite food?
A huge roast dinner (preferrably cooked by my Mum– she makes the best gravy)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I got to go to Radio 1 a couple of times and appear on one of their evening shows
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To go backpacking around the world, to have an infinite supply of Skittles and that I’d never get tired
Tell us a joke.
Here’s a Dad joke for you: ‘How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie in it!’