Ditte Hedegaard

Thank you for all your great questions and for voting for me :D

Favourite Thing: One of my favourite things is when I discover something that has never been seen before and that I have managed to revealed a little bit of the mysterious hepatitis C virus. I also enjoy going to science conferences, meeting scientists from all over the world and talk about new discoveries. Another cool thing I get to do as a scientist, is to be one of the judges at the National Science + Engineering Competition.



2009-2007: M.Sci. in human biology at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007-2003: B.Sci. in biology at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 1999-2002: Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium (High school), Denmark.


Masters in human biology, Bachelor in biology, A-levels in biology and mathematics

Work History:

I’ve previously worked as a research assistant at University of Glasgow and University of Copenhagen. I’ve also worked as a nursery worker, but that is along time ago now.

Current Job:

PhD-student in the Viral Hepatitis Group at the School of Immunity and Infection


University of Birmingham

Me and my work

I’m a training virologist (a person who works on viruses) and everyday I get to work with the genes of hepatitis c virus

I recently made a video about my work, which you can watch here

My Typical Day

On a typical day I will isolate virus genes from old livers and use techniques to determine their unique gene codes.

To be honest my workdays consist of a lot more things such as meetings, answering emails, presentations, conference calls, tutoring, going to seminars, designing experiments, buying new chemicals and equipment and reading about other peoples research, but working in the laboratory is to me the most exciting bit.


When I get into work I usually make myself a cup of tea and start the day by  reading and answering emails. I then have a chat with the pathologist (the person who determine the type of diseases by looking at patient tissue under the microscope), to hear if there are any old livers coming in from the hospital. If there is, I’ll then go collect it and the pathologist and I will cut it into small pieces  so I isolate the hepatitis c virus genome from the liver. Isolating the genes from a liver can easily take the whole day, so I have to store the genome in the -80C freezer overnight so I can continue work on the next day. Before I leave work I usually make a plan for what I’m doing in the laboratory the following day.

The next day I’ll defrost the virus genomes and make a more stable copy of it. Unlike humans, the hepatitis c virus genes are made up of RNA and are a lot less stable than DNA. I therefore start by making a DNA copy of the RNA, so I can continue working with the virus genes. The copy DNA is then used to make thousands of new copies by a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and ones we have enough copies the copy DNA is send to another laboratory which will identify the unique code of the virus genes. They will send the information back to me and I will then spend weeks looking at the gene structure and use complicated computer programs to determine how the individual hepatitis c virus in the liver are genetically related to each-other.

What I'd do with the money

I would like to donate half of the money to TASTE (The African Science Truck Experience) and the other half to set-up a mobile virus lab, which can be used for demonstrating virus research at schools, science festivals and university open days.

I think everyone deserve a ‘taste’ of science and therefore like to support the TASTE’s mobile science labs, which can bring science experiments out to schools in rural Uganda (

I would like to use the other half of the money to buy basic laboratory equipment for isolate DNA and making thousands of copies of the virus genes. The equipment will be part of a future Centre of Human Virology Mobile Lab, which will be used for demonstrating virus research  at schools, science festivals, university open days and at school visits to our labs.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, Viking and Impulsive

Who is your favourite singer or band?

James Blake

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Paragliding is the funniest and at the same time the scariest thing I’ve ever done (did I tell you that I’m scared of heights?!?)

What did you want to be after you left school?

Veterinarian, during high school I changed it to biologist

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

On a few occasions….. usually it was because I talked too much or that I couldn’t stop laughing loudly

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

I love going to schools to talk about my work and do cool DNA experiments with the pupils

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve always been fascinated by micro-organisms and the different types of nasty diseases they can cause. I think it is mind blowing that something that small can make us so ill.

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

Cheese maker….. I love cheese

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

Meeting Charles Darwin, feeding lemurs on Madagascar and that all my science experiments would work.

Tell us a joke.

Q: Which genre of music appeals to most cheeses………? A: R’n’Brie

Other stuff

Work photos:


myimage1View from the laboratory window. In the background you see the University of Birmingham clock tower.


myimage2The hospital from which I get the old livers after the liver transplantations


myimage3 Last year I had to do some work at home over the Christmas holiday and for some reason my parents dog was very interested in the family trees I was building for the hepatitis c virus.


myimage4 Me preparing an experiment

myimage5My friend Piv and I demonstrating science at the Birmingham Thinktank Science Museum