Thank you so much for everyone who voted for me. I hope you have got as much as I have out of this amazing experience. I'm also looking forward to using the prize money to communicate more!
Favourite Thing: To investigate the brain! We use our brain for so much that it is really important to understand what happens when it goes wrong, like when someone has a stroke, so hopefully we can reduce the bad effects!
Kenton School and 6th Form College, Newcastle (1997-2004)
University of Manchester, BSc Neuroscience with Industrial Experience (2004-2008)
Student industrial placement, Eli Lilly
University of Manchester
3rd year Neuroscience PhD student
Me and my work
I am a third year PhD student trying to understand the secret double agent inside your body which is attacking your brain… Your immune system!
Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK, and it is also the leading cause of disability. Every 40 seconds somebody has a stroke. A stroke happens when blood is stopped from getting to part of the brain, just like a heart attack but instead of the heart not being able to get enough blood it is the brain which ends up getting damaged. It is very important to get someone to a hospital as soon as possible if they have had a stroke because there is something that can make the brain damage worse… your own body’s immune system!! We normally think of our immune system as keeping us fit, healthy and repaired, but when your brain has a large amount of damage your body goes out of control and makes the situation worse. Your body sends white blood cells into the brain to kill the problem, but because a stroke is different to an infection as there is no alien bug to kill, instead the white blood cells end up killing your healthy brain. I am currently doing a PhD looking at the early stages of this immune response after stroke, so I can hopefully target a particular chemical with a drug and reduce the damage caused after stroke. As we can’t test experimental drugs on humans straight away without knowing the consequences I use lab rats in my research. If you want to learn more about animal research please go to http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/
My Typical Day
The brilliant thing about doing a PhD is that there are no ‘typical’ days!
In a PhD you have to organise yourself and set your own targets which means every day can be different. Some days I might be in the lab measuring things out or running assays, others I might be staining rat brain tissue for different markers of inflammation and brain damage, and then other days might be spent at my computer or on a microscope analysing data.
What I'd do with the money
Make an interactive computer program about the risk factors of stroke!
I am really passionate about helping to reduce the problem of stroke. You may think that stroke only happens to old people so why should you care about stroke now when you are young?! Well because loads of labs across the world got together and shared all their data on loads of stroke patients and realised that there were patterns in the patients lives before having a stroke. They found that there are 10 risk factors for stroke, such as eating a high fat diet, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, smoking etc. With the money I want to make a free interactive computer program or animation which can be shared with loads of schools and on the Internet to make people aware that it is not just important to look after yourself to have a healthy heart… but it is also important to have a healthy brain!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Short, Smiley, Geek!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I never have been great at knowing cutting edge music, but I like what I like… Vampire weekend, The Maccabees, Mumford and Sons, Biffy Clyro etc. I can’t wait for a well earned break at Glastonbury this year too!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Went to university! I know that covers years of my life, but I have really loved moving away from home, becoming an independent person, studied something I’m really interested in and making some amazing friends!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1.) To have the power to decide when it is going to be a sunny day (Manchester can be very rainy!) 2.) To have perfect hair everyday (I spend too much time and money trying to make it look good and it turns out nothing like in the magazines!) 3.) About 4 more hours in everyday… 28hrs in a day doesn’t sound too crazy.
What did you want to be after you left school?
Early in high school I wanted to be a psychologist, although my friends thought I would make a good scientist. I told them that I couldn’t see myself in a lab coat… but maybe they knew me better than I did at that stage!
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
The boring answer is no. My main reason for getting detentions was my constant lateness. I couldn’t seem to get to any of my lessons on time, so timekeeping has never come naturally to me… I always claim that I am just ‘set at a slow pace than the rest of the world’, but these days I force myself to be on time.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
To be honest my PhD project (like most PhDs) has been a rollercoaster as things often don’t work like you want them too… so unlike other people who might say a specific groundbreaking finding or paper they have published I think I have to say the best thing I have done as a scientist is teach and mentor. It sounds a little weird but I love teaching people techniques and giving them guidance. It is always rewarding seeing someone get the hang of things and also it reminds you of your own abilities… as I think I am often too hard on myself! And fingers crossed my ‘Eureka’ moment happens soon!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the scarecrow win a Nobel prize?… Because he was outstanding in his field!