EducationI attended Dalziel High School from 2007 - 2013 and in 6th year I wanted to join the merchant navy but flunked the interview. Instead, I went to Glasgow Clyde College to do an HNC in Electrical Engineering with a view to re-applying. Halfway throught the HNC I realised I hated the thought of being stuck at sea for months at a time and decided to apply to study a variety of Biomedical Sciences at both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities. I decided to study a 5 year MSc in Microbiology at Strathclyde (although at the time I didn't really know what that meant, I just fancied biology). Lectures in second year got me really interested in the research side of biomedical sciences and so I decided early on in my degree that I wanted to pursue that. In fourth year I decided to try and skip doing a Master's degree and go straight into a PhD, resulting in a lot of (mostly unsuccessful) applications, a few interviews, and ultimately me taking on my current project and staying at Strathclyde.
QualificationsHigh School Int. 1: Hospitality Standard Grade: Biology, Chemistry, Maths, English, Craft & Design, Geography Higher: Biology, Chemistry, Maths, English, Product Design, Geography Adv. Higher: Biology and English College HNC: Electrical Engineering University BSc (Hons): Immunology and Microbiology
Work HistorySales Assistant, JD Sports (Oct. 2013 - Jan 2014) Sales Assistant, Poundworld (Apr. 2014 - May 2017) Research Intern, University of Hamburg (May 2017 - Aug 2017) Warehouse Assistant, Andersen Caledonia (Jun 2018)
Current JobI'm currently studying full time towards my PhD
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Favourite thing to do in my job: Culturing lots of different types of bacteria and seeing how differently they look and behave
About Me: I'm a big joker who stumbled into a scientific career without really knowing what I wanted to do in life, but now I'm loving it.
At the moment I live and study in Glasgow at the University of Strathclyde. Whenever I’m not in the lab I can be spotted exploring the city, reading a book with a coffee, or at a gig. I think one of my favourite things about studying in a city is how busy it is and how many things there are to do.
My Work: I isolate new species of bacteria from the soil and see if, how, and why they kill bad bacteria!
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is what we call the phenomenon where organisms that make you sick (including viruses, bacteria, and fungi) are no longer killed by antibiotics that used to be effective, and is estimated to kill more people than cancer by the year 2050. In an attempt to fight AMR, I look for novel species of a type of soil bacteria called Actinobacteria which produce the majority of antibiotics prescribed by doctors (in fact, any antibiotic ending in -mycin or -micin originally came from an Actinobacterial species!). The reason I do this is to try and discover new types of antibiotics which are able to kill AMR bacteria.
Some of the Actinobacterial strains I’ve isolated as part of my PhD
In order to do this I perform experiments called bioassays, where I grow up my Actinobacteria on different types of nutrient sources to see if I can stimulate them to produce antibiotics that kill bad bacteria. When I find Actinobacteria that kill bad bacteria I sequence their DNA and computationally analyse it in order to find any genes that may produce antibiotics, which is the stage of my PhD I’m currently at. When I identify genes that I think are responsible for producing the antibiotics, I’ll then try and “turn off” these genes in order to confirm if they are: if I turn a gene off and my Actinobacteria are no longer able to kill the bad bacteria, I’ll know that that gene is responsible for antibiotic production!
Actinobacteria are really cool because of how diverse they are. Some can cause really nasty diseases like tuberculosis, leprosy, and diphtheria, however my strains are all harmless (thankfully). However, just because they’re not dangerous doesn’t mean they aren’t cool – there’s a huge variety of them and a lot of them do really cool things depending on how you treat them.
This strain comes from the Atacama Desert and these photos were taken a week apart. As the bacteria get older, they begin to develop dark black spores (hence the colour change).
My Typical Day: I get up early, have a coffee, arrive at my desk, and get ready for a day of experimentation on my bacteria.
I’m based in SIPBS (The Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences) in Glasgow city centre which has dedicated lab facilities for microbiology.
When I arrive in the morning the first thing I do is make a coffee before sitting down, catching up on emails, and planning what work I need to do. I then go into the lab to look at my bacterial cultures and make sure they haven’t developed contamination – this is super important as my Actinobacteria grow more slowly than a lot of other common bacteria and fungi and so can quickly get overgrown if something gets in.
The Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
I tend to spend the morning in the lab setting up experiments – some of these can run for a few hours at a time so I have to do them early if I want to be able to leave at a reasonable time. My afternoons can vary a lot though – I attend meetings, analyse data and design experiments. The actual experiments I do can vary a lot – a really cool side project I have going just now is that I’m marking an important structural protein in one of my strains so that it glows green under the microscope; this will let me know where in my bacteria the protein localises and when my bacteria are making it.
Coffee and Data analysis make for a relaxed afternoon
Alongside my own work I also help less experienced members of the lab with their work and train them on new techniques, as well as attend talks from other scientists to listen about the awesome work they do.
In the evening I wind down with a cup of tea and Netflix – I try and avoid working from home when I can and make sure that I give my brain a break before going to work the next day.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, passionate, relaxed
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My father is disabled and wanting to understand what was making him sick made me interested in biology, and seeing how passionate some of my lecturers in University were about their science made me want to do research
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Sailor in the merchant navy initially, which needless to say is very different from what I do now.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Sometimes - I rarely handed my homework in on time
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
It's hard to imagine being anything else! Doctor maybe?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I've too many to list! However at the moment I'm really enjoying Apes of the State, Mischief Brew, and The Mountain Goats
What's your favourite food?
A big greasy deep fried pizza is my guilty pleasure.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A few years ago I kayaked up a stretch of the West Coast of Scotland with Outward Bound. It was great and I got to see a tonne of wildlife.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Happiness, health, and a house full of dogs.
Tell us a joke.
A guy walks into his GP complaining about a red patch on his face that won't go away. The doctor orders some tests in order to avoid a rash diagnosis