Photo:

Ben White

Avenge me, Dave!

Favourite Thing: Problem solving! I enjoy the challenge that comes with resolving issues, and the sense of achievement and relief that comes with it; especially the big hard important ones.

My CV

Education:

BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences from the University of East Anglia, and GCSEs and A-levels at The Littlehampton Community School 2001-2008.

Qualifications:

I have a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences, and A-levels in Human Biology, Chemistry, Media Studies, and General Studies.

Work History:

I did a summer studentship at the University of East Anglia studying the role of fat cells talk to breast cancer, before finishing my degree and starting my current job. I’ve also worked as an online shopper, post-boy, and done various summer jobs.

Current Job:

Project Support Officer

Employer:

The Genome Analysis Centre

Me and my work

I help scientists from around the world understand the genes in everything from tomatoes to naked mole rats.

Working as Project Support Officer at The Genome Analysis Centre, my job involves a lot of chasing people and doing ‘project management’- if you’ve watched The Apprentice, I’m the one who holds the phone and shouts at people who can’t get me cheap cheese… except with science!

Many scientists are interested in finding out about the genes in the creatures they study, however this can be very difficult. If you wanted to read all the DNA bases in a person like a book, you’d need to read over 3,200,000,000 individual letters, and this would take you maybe 10 years. Thankfully, researchers building on the work of Fred Sanger have made very fancy machines that can read this is in under a day. And that is where I come in. Many scientists don’t have these machines, and this technology is evolving very quickly. The machines and skills needed cost a lot (more than most houses)! Everyday I receive a massive number of emails/calls from scientists all over the world, and we help them decide how would be best to do their experiment and if we can work with them to do it. We therefore have to keep up with the science (there’s more than any one person can know) and also do some ourselves to help make sure their experiments work and that they understand what we’ve done.

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At university I studied Biological Sciences, I was really interested in learning about how and why people get diseases and what can be done about inherited diseases and cancer. I was very lucky to be offered work at The Genome Analysis Centre almost straight after I graduated, as this is a very exciting area of research and uses all of what I learned at university.

When I’m not working I will admit that I’m a bit of a geek and enjoy video games (Dark Souls at the moment is crazy) and seeing the random videos and images that appear online. I’m also into geocaching, and archery.

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I also have a pet hamster called Peppa, she’s very cheeky.

 

 

 

 

 

My Typical Day

Talking with lots of different researchers about their work, looking at big data, and drinking coffee.

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I speak with many different scientists about experiments they have in mind, and if they want to pay us to do them or if they want to come visit and work with us as a collaboration. This involves many emails, and the first thing I do most mornings is check these, and how well the experiments we are doing are going and what we are doing is what the scientist needs- normally with a coffee and maybe a bacon butty.

For us to do the experiments, if it’s not something myself or someone else can do using our supercomputers, we will need to have samples sent to us to work on. I need to make sure we get these samples Ok and that they’re looked after correctly.

A lot of the work done in the lab, with robots and liquid, is something I ask our scientists to do. I make sure they understand what needs to be done for each experiment, and if there are any problems it’s my job to help solve these and talk with all the other scientists involved to fix them.

Once an experiment is complete, I have to make sure everything has been done right and makes sense, and give the results of the experiment to the scientist we’re working with. They can then use this information as part of their research to discover all sorts of things, like what makes a plant grow petals or why a naked mole rat is wrinkly.

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My view of the back of Dave Baker’s head as he sets up his I’m a Scientist profile. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m watching him…

 

What I'd do with the money

Put it towards making a game to help people learn about our work… maybe a web game like Candy Crush Saga.

I’d like to have a game made, maybe for facebook or mobiles, that can help people to understand how we look at DNA on a computer and make sense of it.

I’m a big fan of the idea that games can be used to make learning things easier if it’s complicated. Scientists have made games before to let people help them with their work, as more heads and hands are better and quicker than one, and these also mean anyone can be making a difference to their research. Google ‘science crowd sourcing’ to see some of the very call games already out there that are doing everything from helping cure cancer to making space robots.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Tenacious, curious, sassy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Calvin Harris

What's your favourite food?

Spaghetti bolognese, this is literally the first thing I try when eating out at any new place.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Scuba diving

What did you want to be after you left school?

Apart from the dog grooming, I was interested in becoming a Biomedical gerontologist- someone who studies why we age and how to slow or make us age healthier.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

A handful of detentions in secondary school… mostly for late homework.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Media studies; watching lots of films and talking about them after.

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

Help our work to stop Ashdieback killing our our Ash trees; these are very important trees!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Aubrey de Grey

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

Dog groomer… I’d applied and everything before deciding I’d rather study Biology at University.

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

yoloswag, swaggy, swagalicious

Tell us a joke.

Whats big and white and will kill you if it falls from a tree? A fridge.

Other stuff

Work photos:

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This big barn looking building is The Genome Building where The Genome Analysis Centre is, and where I work.

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My desk, I may or may not have had a quick tidy before taking this photo (don’t look at the number of postits in the bin).

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The PacBio RS II, one of the coolest and most expensive ‘sequencing’ machines we use to read the DNA bases. It’s new and very exciting, and has a lot of interest from fellow scientists wanting us to do research with them using it. There’s also only two of these in the country, and we have one!

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A good deal of the lab work we do here is managed by robots! Currently this one is turned off, if it was on we’d need to have safety screens up as this robot can crush coconuts with it’s arm; I’ve yet to witness this myself. This is one of the smaller, but most used robots we use to prepare the DNA or RNA to be read on one of the ‘sequencers’.

I may or may not have met this man… (you’ll understand if you’re a 90s kid).

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