Talking to students visiting the lab about HPLC
EducationI went to the University of Glamorgan between 2005-2009 for my degree, then University of Hertfordshire for my PhD between 2009-2013
QualificationsI have a degree in Forensic science and a PhD in Analytical Chemsitry
Work HistoryI have worked in a hospital laboratory where I have tested blood and kidney stones. As well as this I have worked in a number of labs where I have tested hair, saliva and urine for illegal drugs – including helping to find cheats at the 2012 London Olympics!
Current JobI am a Senior Scientist and I figure out how to test new and existing medicines with different instruments. I also help look after a team of 5 people.
I currently work at Intertek Melbourn in Cambridgeshire and also help with social media for SCI.
Favourite thing to do in my job: See what metals (and how much) are in samples by giving them energy and seeing the coloured light they produce! For example sodium gives a bright orange colour while Yttrium will shine red, blue or white depending on the temperature.
About Me: I am an analytical scientist – so I figure out how to test something, what is in that sample and how much! I currently test different types of medicine.
I am originally from Wales and now live in Cambridgeshire, England. I love travelling, rock music and food!
I have been lucky and have been to many countries including Australia, USA, New Zealand, Italy, Greece ( & islands), Iceland, Spain (& islands) and others but am looking forward to going to Canada for the first time later this year.
I have a black cat called Olive who has just turned 1 and when I have free time I love to bake. I once baked 83 cupcakes do to the main sections of the periodic table (with a different flavour for each group)! I also enjoy going to see bands play live and hanging out with friends. We play a lot of boardgames (e.g. Ticket to ride, Muchkin, 7 wonders etc) and enjoy watching films.
As well as my normal job I do a lot of charity work for a science organisation called SCI by helping them with Facebook and Twitter. Through them I was lucky enough to go to the Houses of Parliament in London and was able to question MP’s on science. Whilst there we all had a message from Tim Peake (the astronaut) while he was in space!
My Work: My project idea: I would like to see how much air you can breathe in is linked with how far you can shoot a blow dart!
I check different medicines and figure out how to test new ones.
Previously I worked for a number of different laboratories. This included a lab where I tested hair samples for drugs and a university where I tested for metals in lots of different things such as plants, river sediment, skin and others samples. As well as this I helped test pee samples for drugs for the 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth games to make sure the athletes weren’t cheating.
So being an analytical scientist allows me to be very versatile!
I now work for a company called Intertek Melbourn which is a contract laboratory. This means we work with lots of different companies on lots of different medicines. For example where I work helps companies to answer many questions about the medicines they make, such as:
Medicine stability – how long can a medicine be used for before it ‘goes off’? Does it last the same amount of time in the UK compared to a country with a hotter climate?
Medicine identity – does it contain the correct medicine and the right amount? How pure is it?
Tablets – do they dissolve in your stomach or small intestine properly? If it has a coating, is it hard enough?
Inhalers – do they give the right dose each time you press it? How much goes into each part of your lung?
The medicines are examined by lots of different techniques – shining lasers to see how the molecules dance (inferred spectroscopy), heating it up into a gas (gas chromatography), shining light to see if they absorb it (Ultra Violet analysis) or breaking it up into small pieces (mass spectrometry).
My Typical Day: I don’t normally have a typical day as it changes so much!
Each day I do something very different. However some examples of what I may do include making solutions, using pieces of equipment to examine samples and trying to figure out how to examine a brand new medicine that has never been tested before.
One type of equipment I use regularly is called a HPLC. This separates out the ingredients of the sample and uses light to help identify them. Another type of equipment I use is called a mass spectrometer. This blows up a sample into lots of little pieces and can help you figure out how a molecule fits together – like a jig-saw puzzle!
What I'd do with the prize money: I would like to see if your lung capacity (how much air you can breathe in) is linked with how far you can shoot a blow dart then see if there are any patterns between all the children taking part (e.g. where in the UK, age, gender etc) that can shoot further.
Inhalers and nebulisers are important in helping to deliver vital medicine to people’s lungs. One of the most common uses of these is to help people who have asthma.
For scientists and engineers to make good inhalers and nebulisers, they need to know how well people can breathe in as well as how much someone can breathe in. This is known as a person’s lung capacity. However, one person’s lung capacity can be very different to another person’s! Therefore, can a person with a bigger lung capacity shoot a blow dart further?
First we would test your lung capacity using a ‘Spirometer’. This measures how much air you can breathe out quickly from your lungs. It does this by calculating how much air you can quickly breathe out into tube.
Following this, the fun begins with blow darts – but I need your help to design the experiment!
When scientists do an experiment, they do their best to control any possible changes (we call them ‘variables’) that could alter the results seen. So, for example, what tube and type of dart/ball should we use? Where should we do the experiment? How will we measure how far the ‘dart’ went?
Then once we have collected the results from both the lung capacity and the blow darts we can see if there is a link between them.
We could also see if there are any other patterns in the results (Who can shoot further for their lung capacity? – boys /girls or are both similar? Can children in the city shoot further than those in the country? And any other questions you can think of!).
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, enthusiastic and a gamer
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Sir David Attenborough – through his programmes he showed the wonders of the world and that there were still lots to be discovered. Most importantly how science could help uncover the mysteries!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I had detention for forgetting my homework once or twice.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A baker – my cupcakes are awesome.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I love rock music so its very hard to pick just one… today I’ll choose Foo Fighers
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Black water rafting to see glow worms in underground caves in New Zealand.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
(1) Could speak and understand every single language – even animals! (2) Be able to teleport anywhere I wanted – when I wanted and (3) make a guest appearance in ‘The big bang theory’
Tell us a joke.
Why are chemists great at solving problems? They have all the solutions!