Thank you so so much to Jimi, Omur and and Maddison for this week, but most of all thank you to all the phenomenal students!
Estcots Primary School, East Grinstead 1996-2003; Sackville School, East Grinstead 2003-2008; Central Sussex College, Haywards Heath 2008-2010; University of Bristol 2010-2014; Cardiff University 2014-present
GCSE’s: 7A*’s 4A’s 1B; A Levels: Biology (A*), Geography (A), Chemistry (A), Global Perspectives (Distinction); AS Level Maths (C); Undergraduate Degree: Biochemistry with Study in Industry 2.1 (Hons)
Kumon Maths Tutor 2006-2008; Costa Coffee 2008-2010; Specsavers 2010; University of Bristol Student Ambassador 2010-2014; Cardiff Sixth Form College Biology Tutor 2014-2015
PhD Student at the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences
Favourite thing to do in science Getting to know the families and children I work with so that when I am typing away on my computer, doing my statistics, I can understand why I am doing what I am doing, and who it makes a difference to. Knowing the people you are trying to help makes the science more enjoyable, exciting and helps to motivate you.
My work is inspiring to me, but sometimes my work on sleep gets in the way of sleeping and other days it makes me sleep like a log!!
I work with over 350 families all with children with genetic syndromes. I work to try and work out the different characteristics of these families, the patterns of their characteristics and the changes in these over time. Our study does this in relation to psychiatric disease and mental well-being. Genetic syndromes can come and all shapes and sizes – the ones I work with are called ‘copy number variants.’ What this means is that there is an area of DNA which is either missing, duplicated or changed. It is like a lego brick tower. If you take a brick away from the tower, it gets shorter and sometimes it will fall over or collapse – it makes it unstable. If you add a brick to the tower, this makes the tower bigger, and this also can cause it to sometime topple over or be unstable. Making changes to the lego tower, like when changes are made to DNA, can cause the individual to have some differences, physically and mentally.
My Typical Day
Getting stuck in with some stats and analysis to try and work out how sleep affects mental health
My day can comprise of many different tasks. Some days I can spend hours on my computer, analysing statistics, trying to work out how the sleep problems of families we work with relate to their mental health problems. I then attended lots of meetings to discuss my findings, and I can sometimes do some talks. Other days, I actually go out all over the UK to collect this data. I visit families in their homes and ask them questions about their children with genetic syndromes. I get to play games and do puzzles with the children too as well as ask them some questions. I have a nice cuppa with the families and get to see them in their home environment. Some days I go to Bristol to help them with one of their sleep studies exploring sleep in schizophrenia.
What I'd do with the money
Work to mobilise school and communities in the South West of England and Wales from difficult socio-economic backgrounds. I would like to create a series of leaflets, videos, lectures and exhibitions about genetic syndromes and sleep.
I come from a lower socio-economic background where university wasn’t a normal path to take. My family had minimal finances, and I have worked since I was 14 years old. I had a wonderful childhood however it wasn’t without some difficulties. I was always passionate about learning and engaged with school, and that stems from my mum, dedicating hours to my first years and my learning. Her sacrifices ensured that I could do what my friends did, and excel at school. The schools that I went to (when I attended them) were not the best and unfortunately didn’t provide ample opportunities and encouragement was limited.
I made the decision to attend a sixth form college, supported by an education maintenance allowance. This college inspired me and encouraged me that University was the direction I should pursue and helped me to believe that I could accomplish this. They encouraged me to be involved in opportunities provided by educational support charities for individuals with fantastic grades, but little socio-economic support. From there I went on residential trips and became involved in more charities which gave me my first experience of the University of Bristol where I did my undergraduate degree.
I know that without the support of the social mobilising charities and my sixth form, my outlook and direction could be very different – nearly certainly, I would have been a very different woman. I now live in Cardiff which is surrounded by the beautiful welsh valleys. In the welsh valleys there are great areas of poverty, low socio-economic backgrounds, poor education and higher education advancement rates are very low. Being so close to these areas, and empathising with some of the troubles these families and students might have inspires me to try and make a positive difference. I would use the money to try and start education in these areas, to create exposure of my work in areas which otherwise would never have access or the opportunity to listen to my work.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Motivated, passionate, personable
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I am a big rock and metal fan – but I am partial to some One Direction and Justin Bieber!
What's your favourite food?
Paella – I really really like prawns!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Swimming with turtles in Barbados!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A Sky Sports News presenter
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nah, not really. Just some mischief.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I have got to meet many families who want to share their experiences. Having the real-life application of my science is the best thing.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My sixth form chemistry teachers Steve, Ianto and Andy!
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Either an urban planner or sports journalist!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish that I was always confident in my abilities (sometimes I am not); I wish to genuinely make a difference in the lives of families with genetic syndromes and I wish to be an inspiration to children and teenagers especially as a woman scientist.
This is my beautiful, chaotic desk . I always make sure my work area is vibrant and colourful – I could never work in a sterile and plain environment. It basically represents what is going on in my head, with the colour coordinated folders, post it notes of ideas and theories, as well as cuddly neuron and teddies!! This little guy is our mascot! The ECHO Study (Experiences of CHildren with cOpy number variants), when we visit families and do our assessments give out these little teddies to say thank you to the children who help us out! The next images are illustrations of the electrodes I use to measure brain activity of children with genetic syndromes. I do this to look at their sleep and try and work out whether there are differences in the brain activity during sleep in people with genetic syndromes, and those without genetic syndromes.