Omur Tastan

Best Sci-comm event ever! Thanks everyone!

Favourite Thing: Confocal microscope imaging of my colourful fluorescent brains is the best thing ever! You can check out some of my images on my instagram account @sciency_mama Omur Tastan.



Primary &Secondary school(Turkey) Bilkent University, Ankara Turkey(2001-2005) PhD in UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, TX(2005-2010))


I got a PhD and a postdoc

Work History:

Oxford University for the past 5 years

Current Job:

Lab supervisor and postdoctoral scientist


University of Oxford

Me and my work

I study how stem cells become neurons which will help cure brain diseases

I am two things, a scientist and a mother.

I’ve always dreamt about being a scientist but not the other one. However now, they are both a very significant part of who I am. Becoming a mother is one of the main things that started my passion to communicate science. I developed that sense of responsibility towards my children and all others around me. One day I ended up explaining a figure(a normal cell vs a cancer cell) in one of the review articles to my five year old daughter and she was fascinated by it. Then it suddenly clicked, we can give much more to people around us, especially children, than we imagine.

At work, I do research and I try to publish my results in scientific journals. We work in a lab with colleagues so there is constant communication among us about science, results, frustrations, life, coffee/tea, politics anything you can think of really. šŸ™‚

I spent five years doing a PhD(USA) and five years doing a postdoc(UK). They were both a lot of fun! Now, the next step is to set up my own lab and lead my own group of students and postdocs to do research on my favourite topic, STEM cells in the brain.

wish me luck! šŸ™‚

My Typical Day

Being a fly person, I have to take care of my flies everyday. Dissection of fly larvae brains and some microscopy

I come to the lab in the morning and the first thing, I would check on my ~500 tubes of fruit fly stocks with different genotypes. Iā€™d dissect fruit fly larvae to analyse their brains and look for many different molecules in the brain stem cells. I also work with human cells and I use them to test for similarities between fruit flies and humans. I construct fluorescently tagged molecules and visualise them in fruit fly and human cells. Most of the time, we discover great similarities which improves our understanding of humans by studying simple fruit flies.

What I'd do with the money

I will use the money to fund STEM clubs in our local primary school and do more scicomm via social media.

Most schools don’t have lots of extra money to buy fancy equipment or necessary items to run proper STEM clubs. I will get in touch with the local school in my neighborhood and tell them about the funding I have. Then, we can all sit down and decide what is the best way to spend the money to promote STEM clubs.

I am also very active in social media re science communication. I have an instagram account (sciency_mama Omur Tastan) where I share pictures related to my work, or Brain research or life in general as a scientist and as a STEM ambassador. I am very interested in understanding how brains function and how we can fix illnesses that affect the brain. Brains are very complex organs and understanding them requires a lot of funding and support and encouragement from the governments and funding bodies. The only way to change that is to educate public and increase awareness. So, I decided I engage everyone in what I do, by sharing my pretty confocal microscope images and also tell them a bit of brains, diseases etc. So, the idea would be perhaps-if I win the money-to get equipment or reagents where I can do demonstrations of small experiments (make chromosomes from air dough, DNA bracelets or different aspects of science via building parachutes from coffee filters or talk about quinine and why it fluoresces and why this information is useful etc..) online and share them on instagram/twitter.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

friendly, funny and bold

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Taylor Swift

What's your favourite food?

dumplings of any sort from any country

What is the most fun thing you've done?

A one week trip to California

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

yes. only couple of times though:)

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths and Biology

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

Discovered a gene’s function in the fruit fly

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My teachers(chemistry and maths teachers) mainly and also I had a huge ambition to save humanity when I was 16.

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

A graphic designer

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

I would want to be healthy as long as I live. I would want a cracking career-one that I would be proud when I am 70. And, I would want a peaceful world to enjoy all that!

Tell us a joke.

What did neuron cell say to the glial cell? Thanks for the support!

Other stuff

Work photos:

Our lab has two distinct work areas. One is the main lab myimage2 and the other one is the FLY room myimage1 where we tend to our fruit fly stocks and crosses that we set up.You can also see snapshots from various places of the lab that I shared on instagram at sciency_mama Omur Tastan. myimage3myimage4myimage5Ā  Can anyone spot the larvae that are not GREEN? The reason they are green is because they have lots of green fluorescent protein:) GFP!