92 – 96: I went to a girls school called Hillcrest. I got sick in my final year so left with 5 GCSEs. I did my A-levels at Shenley Court School from 97 – 98. I did my first degree at the University of Liverpool 99 – 02, and my first masters there from 03 -04. I got my second masters at Queens Marys medical school 04 – 06 and I have been doing a PhD at UCL since 2010.
5 GCSE, 4 A-Levels, BSc Zoology. MRes Bio Physics. MSc Clinical Microbiology. Doing a PhD in the Role of the Environment in Cross Transmission of Infection.
Great Ormond Street Hospital since 2004
Clinical Scientist in Infection Control
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love the problem solving, putting all the pieces together and getting the answer! I also love it when I get to do the old school science that you see in the movies, with bubbling liquids and smoke. I don’t get to do that too often :)
I’m a hospital detective, I track bugs and find out how they get into patients.
I work in infection control and my job is to make sure that everyone who is in the hospital is safe; whether they are patients, visitors or staff.
I work with the lab who process everyone’s samples and they tell me when someone has a bug. I then look to see where that bug has come from.
Sometimes it has come from the patient themselves, when their won bugs have got from a place where they should be to a place where they shouldn’t be.
Sometimes it has moved from one patient to another; and we need to check that people have been wearing masks, gloves, gowns, or washing their hands.
Sometimes it has come from the environment and I need to work out if it has come from keyboards, toilets or even the biscuit tin!
To make sure that the bugs I find in other places are the same as the one in sample I need to carry out a police style investigation. I do this I can use a number of techniques, from DNA fingerprinting, sequencing DNA, or looking at resistance to different antibiotics.
I also do research to try and work out how to stop bugs spreading in the first place. This has included looking at gas that can spread around rooms to kill bugs as well as looking at how certain objects a more contaminated with bugs than others and changing their design, like telephones.
My Typical Day
My normal day includes answering questions about infection control and investigating when patients have bugs.
My normal day starts with a lot of tea, as once the day starts I usually don’t get much time to stop.
During the day I get all kinds of phone calls asking me questions about what should happen to patients who have bugs. In between phone calls I investigate how those patients got their bugs.
On top of this I will run experiments to see how we can stop bugs getting into patients.
These can include sitting in a laboratory with a pipette running tests based on DNA.
It can include going to my friend Mels lab, she has a bedroom size chamber where I can release bugs and she how they would spread in a hospital bedspace. Sometimes we then release things like gas that will kill bacteria and so we can tell how that would work in a hospital.
Finally I spend times on the wards, taking samples from surfaces, water and air to see what there. I also watch people and see how they move, what they touch, and what they clean.
I work with scientists, doctors, nurses, cleaners and patients and that means that no two days are the same. My job is brilliant, challenging and fun.
What I'd do with the prize money
Make a top trumps bug game
I would use the money to make a top trumps game based on bugs. A lot of people in my hospital have bugs and most of them are not harmful to them. It can scare my patients though when they hear they have a bug as they don’t necessarily know much about them. I would like to help them learn about the bugs they have in a fun way by turning information into a game.
All the different bacteria, viruses and fungi would have a card each. They would get given a lot of different statistics and cool pictures. You would then play the game by playing a card for a specific bacteria and say what stat you are using for that bacteria and the people you are playing against would try to play a bacteria of their won that has a better number in that category.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Happy Dedicated Creative
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I was on an episode of Blue Peter
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My dad, he’s a scientist and he loved it
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I once got told off for wearing black lipstick and nail varnish to school
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A writer. I’d like to write detective books
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I traveled by train from Moscow to Beijing and it was amazing
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Enough money to pay for the science I want to do, health for those I love and a round the world holiday
Tell us a joke.
What did the biologist wear on his first date? Designer genes