Photo:

Robert Hampson

And then there were two!

Favourite Thing: Making chemicals that have never been made before!

My CV

Education:

Oldswinford CofE Primary School (1993-2000) Oldswinford Hospital School (2000-2007) University of Bath (2007-2011) University of Nottingham (2011-Now)

Qualifications:

GCSEs, A-levels (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology), BSc Natural Sciences with Industrial Placement (1st class honours)

Work History:

I did some summer jobs and I’ve also worked at a big accountants called Grant Thornton telling people what to do with their money. I now work as a scientist/PhD student at the University of Nottingham

Current Job:

PhD student, University of Nottingham

Employer:

University of Nottingham (funded by the Medical Research Council)

Me and my work

I make chemicals which are meant to make bacteria less nasty

I’m a PhD student which means I work in a lab doing science for 4 years while being watched by a more experienced scientist. I do this to learn more about how to be a good scientist before hopefully becoming a more independent later in my career. I currently work with bacteria…

We live with bacteria all over us every day. They are on our skin, up our nose, and in our guts. Most of the time they don’t cause us any problems and often actually help us live normal lives. One particular bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus is very common on your skin and up your nose. Unfortunately, because Staphylococcus is so common, it often has the opportunity to get inside us and when it does it often causes an infection and makes us ill. It can cause everything from minor spots to diseases that can kill people.

Each individual Staphylococcus bacteria has the ability to talk to the others around it using chemical signals. When there are only a few bacteria like on your skin, each bacterium cannot really hear any others so it remains calm (it’s quiet like being in a library). When there are lots of bacteria in a small space, the amount of these chemical signals increases and to the bacteria it sounds like very loud shouting (like lots of football supporters all screaming when their team nearly scores), at this point the bacteria get excited and occasionally violent. They release a lot of things which can damage or kill human cells and generally make people ill.

I am trying to make special chemicals which block this chemical shouting produced by the bacteria. Effectively I’m trying to put a gag in their mouths to stop them yelling at each other (bacteria don’t have mouths but you know what I mean!). Quiet, calm bacteria should not be able to make people as ill as loud, rowdy bacteria and your bodies defenses should be able to fight them much more effectively.

My Typical Day

I make brand new chemicals and test them to see how they affect bacterial talking.

I’m normally in the office or laboratory from 10am until 6.30pm. Typically, a couple of hours a day may be mixing different chemicals in special ways to produce other new chemicals. A few more hours may be taken up removing unwanted stuff from my new chemicals. I then may spend an hour or two growing bacteria or mixing my chemicals with a specially modified bacteria to see how my molecules affect the bacterial communication systems. The rest of my time is generally taken up with carefully recording what I have done and what I have observed after each experiment.

What I'd do with the money

Try to run a science day at my church for local schools

Our church has some great scientists and medics and we also have good links with local schools. I think it would be great if we could get some money to show off some of the really cool ways the world works to local school kids.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

I am a rebel

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Mumford & Sons

What's your favourite food?

Eric the Elephants

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I really liked Quad biking

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I was too smart to be discovered doing things that would get me in trouble

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology

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

Discovered things no one knew before me!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Wonder at the world and wanting to know how it works

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

Bored

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

I wish I had a better stature for playing Rugby, I wish they paid PhD students more, I wish science didn’t take such a long time!

Tell us a joke.

I once told a chemistry joke… …but there was no reaction!

Other stuff

Work photos:

My desk (where I’ll be web chatting and answering your questions)
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The Lab (where I do science)
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My fumehood (it constantly pulls air in from the front so toxic fumes can’t get out allowing me to do reactions inside it safely)
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The HPLC machine (it separates individual chemicals from mixtures of chemicals)
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A rotary evaporator (where I take chemicals dissolved in liquids and evaporate the liquid to leave the pure chemical behind)
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The Centre for Biomolecular Sciences (where I work)
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