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Meet the scientists!

My CV

School:

Judgemeadow Community College until GCSE, Wyggesten and Queen Elizabeth I 6th form College

University:

University of Manchester to study Neuroscience with Japanese (which meant I had the opportunity to spend a year studying at the University of Tsukuba in Japan) and I stayed at Manchester for my PhD

Work History:

Lots of different part time jobs whilst studying/ travelling. My last job was as a research assistant with a different lab group at my university.

Employer:

The University of Manchester, Faculty of Life Sciences

Current Job:

Post-doctoral research associate

Photo:

Indi Ghangrekar

Let me know if you want to get involved in a human body clock experiment!

Favourite Thing: The most interesting part is when you have lots of results and you have to make sense of them – it’s a little like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle and it makes sense and works.

Me and my work

I study how animals behave and react appropriately to the time of day (for example, sleeping at the right time of day to avoid getting eaten by predators, or hunting at the right time of day when their food can be found) – which is controlled by a tiny region of the brain.

It’s amazing, nearly all animals and plants have a way to tell what time of day it is and then adjust how their internal organs work and how they behave according to that. I mostly study genes that are involved in this ‘body clock’.

It is a very complicated process but generally, they mostly tell the time of day by the number of hours of sunlight. And the adjustments in the body take place in a variety of organs, in animals, breathing and heart rate is different at night, the stomach starts producing digestive juices ahead of normal meal times ready to digest the food when it’s eaten, there are lots more examples too but I won’t go into all of them here. In some animals, as it gets closer to winter, their fur changes colour to white in order to stay hidden in the snow.┬áBehaviour is different too – for example, the hottest part of the day or times when predators are out are times when animals choose to stay hidden.

My work is mostly in the field of molecular biology – which means looking at how certain genes and proteins interact with each other. I spend a lot of time working with small fiddly tubes using a variety of techniques to investigate this. Currently I’m working with mice but I used to work with fruit flies, always on clocks though! But this is a VERY brief overview, feel free to ask questions if it doesn’t make sense :)

My Typical Day

I often start the day off by checking if there are any mice I need to go check up on – making sure they’re doing well, after that the day will consist of whatever needs my attention at the time – I have to organise my time between the different jobs that I have to carry out and that can vary a lot!

Once a week, we have a lab meeting, everyone within my lab group – which includes the head of the lab, post-docs like me (but there’s only me at the moment!), PhD students (2), masters, Erasmus or undergraduate students (4) and research technicians (1) – get together and tell each other what work we have been doing. Doing this gives us a chance to discuss the project as everyone within a single lab group works on related but slightly different topics. We can get advice, hints, tips and co-ordinate our activities. My university has hundreds of different lab groups like this, all working on different projects.

Because I work on the body clock, sometimes I need to disrupt my own body clock by coming into work throughout the day and night – this is not pleasant and I try to make sure that this is scheduled so that I can don’t have to do it too often!

At the moment I am supervising some undergraduate students so I try to have regular meetings with them to check that they are progressing well or whether they need any assistance or advice.

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to get involved in a science festival and set up a hands on activity.

I’ve been to some science festivals before and they’re a great way to talk to the public about science. You can set up something exciting and fun to do and go see a lot yourself.

I would set up an exhibit or some sort of hands-on activity about either clocks, fruit fly research or genetics – this will depend on the festival that I can join in on, sometimes they have a theme.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Short, smiley, messy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

There are loads that I like, can’t choose one but at the moment I’m listening to Morcheeba and the last album I bought was by Plan B.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Probably diving in the ocean – absolutely amazing experience but too expensive to do it anywhere near as much as I would like.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1) To have more time and money to travel to see friends and family in far flung parts of the world. 2) To have more time to experiment with my current cooking and homemade stuff ventures. 3) To be more artistic.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I really didn’t know but was interested in biology and decided to study neuroscience which led to studying for a PhD and my current job.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, mostly for chattering when I should have been listening to instructions!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Last July, I went as a course tutor on a field course for undergraduates held in Belize – we had 1 week on a reef research station on a tiny island and then 2 weeks in the rainforest. Being a molecular biologist, this was my first proper time out in the field and it was amazing! My profile picture was taken in a cave near the rainforest research station – hence the head torch and scarf to prevent bat poo going in my hair.

Tell us a joke.

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