Fiona McLean

YEHHHHH!!! Thanks SO much to all the students! I had an absolute blast!

Favourite Thing: I love designing experiments and building the equipment for them! I also really love when an experiment works and you know for that moment you are the only person in the world that knows what you’ve just found out.



Craigmount High School 2002-2008, University of Dundee 2008-2012, University of Aberdeen 2012-present


B.Sc. Biochemistry and Pharmacology

Work History:

Last job was in Starbucks

Current Job:

PhD Student


University of Aberdeen

Me and my work

I delve into the brain and search for memories. Sometimes I find that memories have disappeared! I try to work out if unhealthy foods are making them disappear…

I look at the brain and try to understand how memories work. There are some diseases, for example Alzheimer’s disease, which cause memory loss. This type of memory loss is known as “dementia”. It usually happens to older people but nobody knows why. So that is exactly what I’m trying to find out!

Some scientists (such as myself) think that dementia could be caused by eating unhealthy foods. Lots of people already know that unhealthy foods can make your body unfit but there is not so much known about if unhealthy foods make your brain unfit too! The brain is a very mysterious organ and there are a lot of puzzles about it to be unravelled. Hopefully by working out if unhealthy foods do cause dementia I can help stop people from getting it by letting them know how important eating fresh, healthy food is for not just your body but your brain too!

My Typical Day

My typical day involves a lot of investigating inside brains! At the moment I am trying to get certain cells to glow inside the brain to let me know if there are memories there.

I usually start the day looking at emails (how boring!). Then things usually get a bit more interesting! I will start an experiment to look at what is happening inside the brain to try and work out how memories are formed and how this happens. I can do this by getting chemicals that make specific molecules in the brain glow in the dark. This lets me see where these molecules are in the brain and I can work out if they are meant to be there in the first place!

Then I will usually go for a break with everyone who works in my laboratory and we have a chat and a catch-up and talk about all the different experiments we are doing. After, I will go do some more science in the lab or analyse some data.

At lunch all the students at the Rowett Institute (where I work) sit and have lunch together. This is always great fun as we have a really multicultural environment. There are people from all over the world doing research here; from France to Mexico to China. It’s such a great opportunity to learn about other countries.  After lunch I will go and see how my experiment has gone and hope it has worked!!

What I'd do with the money

I would like to make a video to show all the different places your money goes when you make a donation to a charity that supports scientific research!

For a while I’ve really wanted to make a video called “Follow the Pound”. It would show where money you donate to charity goes and the different things it can go towards. If people can see where their donation goes and the impact even just a penny can have then hopefully it can encourage people to keep donating whilst also learning a bit about what scientists and researchers do.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, Driven and Fun!

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Flying in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon in America.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A fashion designer

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Sometimes! (I liked to talk!)

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology (we once got to make a flame thrower using custard powder!)

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

Getting to do things like I’m A Scientist!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My biology teacher and my favourite scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini (when the Nazis in WWII stopped her doing science, she built a laboratory in her bedroom!)

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Bored! (But probably a lot richer)

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

Win the Euromillions (then I could fund some really cool experiments), have a teleportation machine (so I could go to Hawaii on my lunch break) and be in the X-Men.

Tell us a joke.

Renewable energy? I’m a big fan!

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is where I work! This is the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health and it is part of the University of Aberdeen. This is one of the main buildings and during the summer it is covered in plants!


This is Brian the neuron. He’s my spare neuron for when I have days where my brain doesn’t work properly.


The Rowett Institute has a lot of fields around it. These are some of the lambs that were born this spring.


This has nothing to so with science or work! This is my pet baby chick. He is called Frank.