ah well, dissapointd yes, but enjoyed the experience and will definately be signing up again. Thanks to everyone involved..truly great fun
Favourite Thing: Teaching: Realise someone has clicked and understands something they didn’t before….so cool when you see that happen. Research: Finding something out that no-one else has ..especially if it has a direct link to solving a problem…oh and seeing a project students face when they start to realise that they are also the first people to find something out….really rewarding
Abbey High School, Redditch ( Now the Trinity High School) from 1986-1991
I did my Degree in Microbiology at Birmingham University, then my Phd at Aston University
Sainsbury’s ( while at university…) then Aston University as a Research technician..then after my PhD Nottingam University as a researcher , then to Nottingham Trent for Teaching and research…which is pretty much my ideal job
Nottingham Trent University
Me and my work
Examining bacteria found in hospitals and finding out if they could cause disease
Three main bits to my work
1) Hospital infections:
lots of bacteria cause illness because are immune systems are weakened by already being ill..like when we are in hospital, or very young, or very old. We look at a range of bacteria that only really cause problems in hospitals and try to determine where they came from, how dangerous they are, how to prevent infection with them and so on. Its brought up some interesting organsisms that have toxins that puncture red blood cells, a capsule shield that protects them from antibiotics and other abilities which mean, in the right circumstances, they could cause serious problems
2) the inflammatory response to bacteria
Alot of the illness we get as a result of bacteria infection is damage caused by our immune cells on our body while trying to get rid of the bacteria. This can be termed inflammation. Now a healthy immune system is good..if bacteria get to the wrong location ( as far as we are concerned) then we need to get rid of them..and generally our immune systems do a remarkable job in keeping us healthy. However sometimes the only damage we get from bacteria is actaully from our immune cells over reacting to what may have been fairly harmless bacteria. And thats what i study inflammation for ..to see what bacteria cause what reaction in what part of the body( intestines, skin, brain) by using whats called tissue culture. It looks at layers of cells grown in the laboratory that mimic different body locations. We add bacteria, see how they get on, measure chemical messangers that the human cells send up…like a flare warning the immune system that bacteria are present. Some bacteria cause a huge flare ( high inflammation) others more a mini firework ( low inflammation) . I try and work out why that is.
3) disinfectants and antibiotic resistances
This is what I did my PhD on. If you grow bacteria in low levels of disinfectant do they get resistant to disinfectant and antibiotics that may one day be used to treat them. Short answer is, yes, yes they do..but in the ones i have looked at so far it is a difficult process that makes them weak in other ways. This is based on the idea that becuase of dirt blood vomit and other things cleaned up with disifectants, the actual does the bacteria see can be very very low..much lower that the kill dose. So they get to grow and ” train up” in a lower dose ..which makes them tougher when they actually meet a killing dose.
Bacteria get resistance in lots of different ways, they can improve their cells wall so it blocks the disinfectant getting in…they can mutate so the target of the disinfectant changes, or they can even pump the disinfectant back out of the cell so it doesn’t harm the bacteria. Each bacteria works in a different way against each different disinfectant. So we try and work out which disinfectants is it worse to use, which bacteria are most liekly to get resistant and so on.
As for me, outside of work..I try to stay fit ( badminton…no rugby anymore) and for the past few years my son has be reintroducing me to life as a little guy ( he’s nearly 6)…which has been huge fun and allowed me to have a good reason for watch CBBC Toonattik and playing with various shapes and colours of alien thundermegazord.
Or at least thats my excuse
Otherwise i am in the enviable position of having the job I always wanted, doing what i love day in day out.
My Typical Day
Oh crikey ..no teaching just now , so not really a typical day but here is what may 26th 2010 was like…
8 am Get into work. Make a list of things i want to get done today. Make sure answer emails is one of them
8.30 Finish answering emails and cross first thing off list ( hope this won’t be the only thing )
8.30-9.30 Check in on Project students in the lab. I have three students who are working in the lab. One doing a project for a master’s degree, one exchange student from France and one ex-Masters student who wants to learn new techniques. Check they are okay with experiments and taking results and agree to meet with them later
9.31-9.32 Quickly add ” meet students” to list a cross off again..feel happier
9.32- 11.32 Marking exam scripts, projects and dissertations. At this time of year we have a fair amount of marking to do and I try to set time aside to focus on it. Often we also have second marking to do where we re-mark work someone esle has marked to check we both agree with the..er…mark (few to many marks in that sentence)
11.32- 12 midday. Send emails about sixth form conference I am co-organising. Probably the hardest part of the day as i always worry things won’t come togther at the end..but fingers crossed everything is in place..only a month to go.
12 till 1pm Have lunch andgo for my walk and meet first level 2 student to discuss next year’s project. I walk everyday to lose weight…it and not grazing the fridge at night is working.. This time of year students choose what research project to do next year. The last two weeks have been full of around 60 students asking about the projects and becase its an important piece of work i always spend about 20-30minutes chatting with them about what me being their supervisor would entail..if they were so foolish as to choose me. But because its such an important part of the final year, i think its time well spent
1-2pm Meet last 2 students to talk about projects (deadline to hand in is at 2) sign the forms of 3 other students who I spoke to previously but they had forgotten the form i have to sign.
2-3 Meet with lab researchers as promised, go through plan for the week, talk about results, explain how to use Excel..diffferent things for each student
3-5 Range of different things. Planning research grant applications, look at new text books for next year, write up my own consultancy work or antibacterial clothing materials, second mark colleagues exam questions
5-6 Go home
6-8pm have tea and play with my son age 5. I try to keep work and home time separate while he is awake.
8-? Mix of work, checking emails and relaxing depending on the day…Oh and check list and see what i have been able to cross off…not bad
What I'd do with the money
Two things, help an undergraduate attend a conference, and help pilot some Outreach work that would last for 3 weeks rather than just 1
I think one of the most useful things for any student is to go to a conference and meet other people who love microbiology. It lets them realise that these people who they just know the names of on papers are actually real people, who have trouble in the lab, or struggle to get results, just like everyone else. They are also all enthusiastic about there work, which again is something that i think goes a long way in teaching.
I would like to be able to run Outreach session where students do an experiment, they then come back the next week..look at the results, design a new experiment and then compare the results the week after. This is very much how reserach often works, and is much more useful than just being told what to do in a practical.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, focussed, round
Who is your favourite singer or band?
currently Linkin park..but a wide range of stuff really…lots of soundtracks ..Bit of Celtic ( punk and folk)..all sorts really
What is the most fun thing you've done?
waterslides with my son
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
That I could live long enough to see the environemnt start to improve..I’d worry less about what state of world my son might grow up in.. Second …-ve calorie cake and pie..eat loads lose weight…finally to eb able to play a musical instrument..not necessarily well…just be able to play
What did you want to be after you left school?
Microbiologist…got the bug ( pun intended) during A-levels
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not hugely…maybe when i was younger ( 11-13) a playground scuffle etc…but by High School i was House captain ( the only house captain with long hair and a biker’s jacket..but house captain nonetheless)
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Discovered that a species of bacteria could be far more able to cause disease than anyone thought…watch this space for updates (grin)
Tell us a joke.
Why couldn’t the student E.coli go into the lab? Because it was Staph only….