Whitehill Secondary School (1993-1998), University of Glasgow (1998-2012)
5 Highers in Human Biology, Chemistry, English, Maths & Geography, BSc Physiology, BSc (Hons) Neuroscience, PhD Clinical Neuroscience
Beauty therapist, YSL make up artist in House of Fraser, Research Assistant at University of Ulster
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Queen’s University Belfast
I use stem cells to repair damaged blood vessels in the eye.
We all take our sight for granted and we often don’t think about how different life would be if we lost our ability to see. Imagine not being able to watch your favourite football team on a Saturday or check out a photo of that hot guy that your best friend fancies!
There are lots of disorders which can cause vision loss, especially diabetes, which makes blood vessels in the eye leaky. High blood pressure can also cause large veins in the eye to close over and this stops blood flow in the retina which can lead to blindness.
I use mouse models of these disorders to try and prevent vision loss. I use special imaging equipment called angiography and optical coherence tomography (OCT for short!) to look at the blood vessels and retina in the eyes of mice. I then inject the eyes with a special type of stem cell which helps to repair the damaged blood vessels. The stem cells we use come from blood and we all have them in our bodies. Everyone in the lab volunteers to have blood taken and then we process it to get the cells that we need for our experiments.
My Typical Day
A typical day involves reading & writing scientific papers, doing experiments and presenting data at meetings
I can do lots of different things in a single day depending on what experiments I’m running! Sometimes I can be at my desk in the office all day drinking cherry coke while reading research papers and writing up my own experiments. Other days I can be in the lab making up microscope slides and imaging them to get lots of pretty fluorescent pictures of stem cells in the eye. Some days I’ll be looking after my mice, making sure that they’re all happy and healthy. This is especially important if the mice are diabetic, as they need extra care. If it’s a really busy day then I might be doing a bit of everything and unfortunately for me this usually happens on a Friday when I want to scoot off early! No such luck!
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d use it to bring school kids into our lab so they can experience a day as a research scientist.
I would like to use the money to bring pupils from local schools into the lab to see what we do. In particular, I would like to involve schools where a lack of funding means that students may not have the same opportunities to experience science in the same way that students from wealthier schools can.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, friendly, blonde
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Developed a new model of retinal vein occlusion which will allow us to test drugs to repair damaged blood vessels in the eye and restore visual function (hopefully!!)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My undergrad project supervisor at Glasgow Uni, Professor David Maxwell, because he helped me to see what I was capable of achieving. The man is a living legend!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Never! I was a good girl! In other words, if I did something naughty I made sure I didn’t get caught!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A beautician. I studied beauty therapy between degrees and worked on a make up counter while I was doing my PhD.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Paragliding in Cyprus and flying in a RAF chinook helicopter!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. To be first author on a Nature paper. 2. To have a Prada handbag for everyday of the week. 3. To have a lifelong seat in the Director’s box at Glasgow Rangers Football Club.
Tell us a joke.
Q. What do you call a 3 legged donkey? A. A wonky!!