Super excited to be involved in the careers chats! Ask me anything!
Lliswerry Primary School: 1992-1998, Lliswerry High School: 1998-2005 – GCSE and A-levels (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths (AS level)), University of the West of England, Bristol: 2006-2009 – B.Sc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences (obtained upper second class – 2:1)
GCSE: 2 A’s, 6 B’s, 3 D’s. A-Level Biology, Physics and Chemistry, Degree: 2:1 B.Sc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences
Genesis Biosciences – R&D Scientist, Jan 2010-October 2013, also Virgin Media – broadband technical support, Nuaire – technical sales advisor, Sports direct sales advisor.
Cardiff University, School of Dentistry
I look at how bacteria and fungi from the mouth interact, and grow living 3D models of the roof of your mouth in the lab to infect and see what happens!
I am firstly a microbiologist – so I work with bacteria and fungi that are commonly found in peoples mouths (you probably have the ones I work with in your mouth anyway!). I grow these bugs in something called a biofilm, which is an aggregation or collection of the bugs onto a surface, and they produce a protective cover called EPS (if you don’t brush your teeth, you get plaque build up and this is a good example of a biofilm). This makes them much more difficult to treat and remove from a medical point of view.
Biofilms can form not only on teeth, but everywhere. So things like in pipes at home, and other surfaces like baths and sinks. I’m interested in biofilms that form on false teeth (dentures), which include Candida (fungi) and a range of bacteria). We don’t really know how these bugs interact or how do things that lead to infection (called denture stomatitis), so my PhD research is looking at how they interact and result in infection.
The engineering side is tissue engineering – this is biomedical engineering, where I make a living 3D representation of the roof of your mouth, in the lab. I can then grow biofilms on the same material used to make false teeth, and infect the 3D models I grow, and see how the infection happens and how the cells respond. I get a lot of graphs and numbers, but some really cool pictures .
Working in the lab is hard, and sometimes have really long days, but very fun and you also get to travel to conferences – so I’ve been all around the UK, and to Portugal and Boston in the USA (and going to San Francisco at the end of march for another one!).
My Typical Day
Never the same, always interesting and always involves coffee! Feeding cells, growing cells and bugs, infecting tissue models, analysing data!
As I have a young family, I’ll arrive at work about 9:30, and either start by putting some growth media (food for the cells to grow) into the water bath to warm up before I can use it, or start by doing some scientific reading (and ok sometimes Facebook..naughty!).
I’ll begin setting up experiments around mid morning, and break for a coffee, then continue until lunch. After lunch, I tend to do the cell maintenance – so replacing the media to give them fresh food, and the same for my bugs, and start experiments that will run overnight. If I have an infection to do, this is usually done late in the afternoon/evening, so I can come in at a relatively normal time (from about 7am) to collect the infection cells and bugs, and do the analysis. Post-infection, there are a couple of long days where I have a million things to do at once. I’ll leave any time from about 4:30, but then I’ll do some work at home too in the evening when the children are in bed!
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
I’ve presented my work at top conferences all around the world – Portugal, America (twice!) and all around the UK, and making living 3D models of the roof of your mouth..thats pretty cool to see under the microscope
What advice would you give someone who wants to be in the same career as you?
Go for it! Be prepared for hard work, long days and lots of effort, but its worth it.
What do you see as your next step in your career?
I’d like to work as a post-doctoral researcher for a bit, then move into supervision and lecturing
What other sorts of jobs can you do with your qualifications?
Anything really – stay in academia and research or lecture, engineering, teaching, research, science stuff, public engagement, politics, or work in a shop!
What's the best part of your current job?
Working with living microorganisms, and finding out how they interact
What don't you like about your current job?
It’s nearly over!