Thank you for all the votes and congratulations to Ananthi!
Newbridge Comprehensive School (2004 - 2009), Crosskeys College (2009 - 2011), Cardiff University (2011 - 2015), Royal Veterinary College (2015 - Present)
BSc Microbiology, A levels (Biology, Chemistry and ICT), 11 GCSEs
Carphone Warehouse (part-time during uni), Cardiff University (placement year and summer lab job), Royal Veterinary College (PhD)
PhD student in molecular microbiology
I just finished my PhD at Royal Veterinary College, a veterinary based university based in Camden in London and near Potters Bar, just outside of London. We were ranked one of top 3 in the world vet schools in 2017 for the 3rd year running (see here).
In addition to lots of veterinary undergraduate students we have many active research departments. My department specifically is the Pathobiology and Population Sciences, based within the Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic Diseases (CEEED).
Since as of 3 weeks ago, I just started a new job at a small company calledd Microgenetics, situated just outside of Bath. I’m doing similar work to my PhD, but my focus now is on rapid detection of the bacterium that causes bovine TB (Mycobacterium bovis), so far it’s all really exciting and loving it here!
Favourite thing to do in my job: Understand new things
I'm Ash, I'm currently a final year PhD student working on tuberculosis at Royal Veterinary College. I love all things science, technology, games and books 🤓
So my work is focussed on the bacterial pathogen that causes tuberculosis (TB): Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium is the primary cause of death across the globe due to an infectious disease, more deadly than HIV or malaria, with one third of the worlds population being infected. Specifically, I'm looking at how the genetic differences between M. tuberculosis and M. bovis affect lots of things like virulence (how ill it can make us) or survivability (how long it can survive in types of cells)
My particular project is looking at the DNA differences between Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the cause of tuberculosis (TB) in humans) and Mycobacterium bovis (the cause of TB in cows). Here, I’m trying to figure out what the effect of these single (and sometimes big) differences have on the bacteria and if they can help us defeat these nasty bugs.
I do lots of experiments, such as making mutant versions of M. tuberculosis, putting genes from one bacterium into another and PCR.
I also try to do lots of bioinformatics, which involves looking at all DNA sequences on the computer and running the data through special programs to find things, recently I’ve been looking at single DNA changes in +5,000 M. tuberculosis genomes!
My Typical Day
I usually aim to get into work from 8.30am, just so I avoid the rush hour. I often have breakfast at work whilst checking emails and scrolling through Twitter. Then, plan my experiments for the day, read any results from experiments from the previous day and then plan some lab work and start some experiments. After lunch I check emails again before running a few more experiments. Usually leaving work at about 5/6pm, but sometimes experiments go on longer than I'd like, so sometimes don't leave until 9/10pm!
Most work I do though is in the main laboratory, mostly molecular microbiology, like PCR and altering the genes of other bacteria (mutagenesis). This is what my lab bench looks like most days…
Sometimes, once or twice a week, because I work on a high containment pathogen (meaning it can make you sick easily if you come into contact with it), we have to go into the containment level 3 (CL3)/biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory. Here, the laboratory is under negative pressure to stop the bacteria escaping out and we have to wear more personal protection – gown up in a different style of lab coat, wear 2 layers of gloves, some oversleeves and some dashing blue shoe covers.
This is the inside of the containment lab (when it is down for maintenance, hence being able to take my phone in!). It is entirely separate from the main lab, the only bit connecting the main lab is either a 30 cm thick window or 2 big heavy metal doors. Here, we work on all the nasty pathogens, but because Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium bovis grow so slowly (usually takes a month), we are only in here once or twice a week.
What I'd do with the prize money
Not many schools do many microbiology practicals anymore, so I'd like to go into some schools with lots of petri dishes and swabs and show you all the wonders of microbiology!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Nerdy, fun, loud?
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Find something that no-one else has found
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Lots of great teachers/tutors
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Originally a teacher, but then decided I wanted to pursue microbiology
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yep, quite a fair bit, less so during college
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I quite like tech, so a tech journalist
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Lots! But, favourites are probably either Daft Punk, Vampire Weekend or Too Many Zooz
What's your favourite food?
Pizza, Korean or burgers
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Hmmm...probably canyoneering in the Brecon Beacons
Tell us a joke.
Why did the microbe cross the microscope? To get to the other slide...