Sally Cutler

Favourite Thing: Biological science facinates me. I decided to start small, so I try to understand microbes (germs) and how they can influence our lives. Within this area, infections and how we can prevent them is an area that attracted me. This means I also get to work with pus through to wee, and yes I enjoy it!



School; University; work & part-time university study.


GCSE’s x 11; A-levels x 2; S-level x 1; BSc Microbiology; MSc Medical Microbiology; PhD Microbiology.

Work History:

I have worked in hospitals to help diagnose what microbes made people sick. Then I moved to research in hospitals still looking at what made people sick. I then looked at what made animals sick at a veterinary research laboratory. Now I work in a University.

Current Job:

I work at the University of East London as a member of academic staff doing research and teaching of medical microbiology.


University of East London

Me and my work

Mad about science :))

My work covers a range of areas linked to bugs that make you sick and how we can prevent this. I work with the microbes carried by some blood-sucking “insects” including ticks and lice. This can mean going to collect these by dragging a blanket around in the woods! We are also looking at some microbes that cause tummy upsets (diarrhoea) so we are about to start looking at pooh (stool) samples from our study participants. We will also be looking at spit samples for a new organism that may have a link with making you sick. We try to grow these microbes and understand how they make us feel ill. This can help us to understand how we can prevent this.

As I work as a scientist in a University, I also teach our students. To do this you have to prepare what you will say and tasks that will help the students learn about microbes in the laboratories.

Also part of the work includes telling others about our findings. This is done through going to meetings where you give lectures and trying to get results of work published in books and journals.

Every job also has to consider money too. Scientists cannot do their work without money to cover the costs, so part of my job is to try to find sources of financial support to continue my work.

My Typical Day

Not really any typical day – could be teaching, in the laboratory, in meetings or abroad!

After a long journey around the M25, I try to arrive by 9am. What happens next in my day varies. Some days are teaching days when I might be giving lectures, or in the laboratories with my students. Other days I might be in the laboratories either guiding the work of my research students or doing my own laboratory work. I often have meetings too that can range from University administration to scientific meetings. Some of these are in the UK, but others have taken me to many parts of the world including Africa, America, and many European countries. Similarly, my reserch has taken me to incredible places where I would never have visited otherwise. These can make a big impression about the impact of microbes upon human health and the need to control infections to preserve life.

Often my day will not finish until fairly late, but I try to leave by 7pm. The day does not feel long as I love what I do. So much so that at weekends I still continue what I can from home (not laboratory work though!). Being a scientist helps you question everything in your life, which is no bad thing, but can be frustrating when you don’t always find an answer, but instead have ten more questions!


What I'd do with the money

Go back to school! Yep – I would visit to promote microbiology in schools.

I have been keen to promote microbiology in Schools and this support would help in two ways. The first would be to get a UV detector to screen hands which would allow in class demonstrations of how invisible microbes can spread. We could use invisible “paint” on door handles or on our hands to show how much contact we have to spread infection of unseen microbes.

Secondly, I am trying to collect head lice from Schools (yep someone has to work with these too). The funding would help purchase nit combs to use for bug busting days to anonymously collect these nuisance pests for research that would help us know the impact and risks from this increasing problem in schools. (The fun things us scientists work with!)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic; energetic; endeavour.

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Steak & chips

What is the most fun thing you've done?

This is a tough one – I would say galloping on horseback along a beach in Mexico

What did you want to be after you left school?

Not a clue, but wanted to continue learning.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not often.

What was your favourite subject at school?

The winner is biology by a long way.

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

Travelled to Africa to grow microbes that nobody had grown before – awesome!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My old biology teacher and his passion for science and belief in me.

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

Work with animals.

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

Enough money to continue my research; time to work in the laboratories; and some of the latest equipment to help my research.

Tell us a joke.

A blowfly goes into a bar and asks: “Is that stool taken?” (Stool is a posh scientific word for pooh).

Other stuff

Work photos: