Congratulations Julian, thoroughly well deserved!
Beacon Community College Crowborough (1998-2003); Sussex Downs College (2003-2005)
BSc at University of Aberdeen (2005-2009); PhD at University of Aberdeen (2009-present)
I’m currently studying for a PhD at University of Aberdeen
Favourite thing to do in science My favourite part of science is finding out the results of my experiments. Most of what I do in the lab takes weeks, from planning an experiment through to actually doing it, and it’s a real thrill to finally find out whether it has worked and what the next step will be!
I look at how the cells in your brain (neurons) use vitamins that you eat in your diet.
I was never very interested in science at school, always thinking that it was for the bright kids at the front of the class and not for the likes of me! I much preferred English, music, and creative subjects. However, there’s not much of a living to be made in being a novelist or artist so after doing not badly in biology and chemistry at GCSE level (largely due to a set of inspirational science teachers) I decided to take these subjects on to A-level. I’ve always been fascinated with the human body, how it works and what happens when it goes wrong, so I decided to study Physiology at University. Here I discovered that science is a creative subject, scientists design experiments, and piece their results into stories that describe how the systems they are looking at work (or at least how they think they do!) I decided that science was the career for me after I spent a summer in a lab working with a fantastic tutor who patiently taught me that labs weren’t so scary after all, and I’m pleased to say that I still work with her investigating how brain cells use vitamins from the diet.
My Typical Day
I spend most of the day growing up neurons from several areas of the brain, and the rest teaching undergraduates and in meetings
My day begins quite early, I arrive at the lab and check on my cells in the incubator. Most of the morning is spent tending to their every whim (neurons are very needy cells!) and setting up experiments. I quite often have meetings during lunch where I meet up with other scientists and we chat about how our work is going, discuss results, and come up with new ideas for experiments. I sometimes teach during the afternoons, this involves taking undergraduates (usually first years) through the techiques that they will need later in their courses. Late afternoon is usually results time, and every friday evening I find out if the experiments I have done during the week have worked, analyse the results, and if anything interesting crops up e-mail my boss. A typical evening will involve looking after my rabbits, going for a run (weather permitting), and watching a film before bed.
A picture of a neuron from an area of the brain called the hypothalamus
My rabbits Theo and Dot
A cell culture flask I use to grow up my neurons
What I'd do with the money
Put it towards funding science demonstrations and workshops in schools
I believe the best way to get you guys talking about science is to show you the most exciting and fun bits. So the money would be spent on equipment used for science demonstrations in primary and secondary schools. In particular the University I work for organises an event called “car boot science” in which we enthuse school age children and members of the public with several demonstrations from a whole range of scientists from physicists to biologists like myself.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, ambitious, idealist
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I’d say The Verve or Keane are probably my favourite bands, and I quite like KT Tunstall at the moment too.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A bungee jump, great fun, I’d highly recommend
What did you want to be after you left school?
I didn’t really know, I had several ideas (writer, journalist…) but I only really figured out at University what I wanted to be.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Oh yes, I was a bit of a toe-rag, but thankfully I realised the errors of my ways before my exam years.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I presented my work at a conference last year, I found this really self-affirming, and it proved that other scientists were interested in my work.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d like to be successful in my career (well who wouldn’t!), I’d like also to be successful at home (family etc etc..), and I’d like to continue to be content with my lot in life.
Tell us a joke.
Two buckets of sick are walking down the street when all of a sudden, one of them starts to cry. His friend (bucket of sick number one) asks “what’s the matter? Has something upset you?” To which he replies “Oh nothing, it’s just I was brought up here”