St Martins Comprehensive (1998-2005), University of Glamorgan (2005-2009) and University of Hertfordshire (2009-2013).
Degree in Forensic Science and PhD in Analytical Chemisty.
TrichoTech Ltd, Kings College London, University of Hertfordshire and Intertek Melbourn.
Method Development and Validation Scientist / Social Media Co-ordinator
Intertek Melbourn / SCI Agrisciences
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!
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
If I won I would use the money to visit schools and also arrange school trips to our lab.
For school visits the money would be used to help get some chemicals and small bits of equipment so I could explain chemistry with fun experiments such as screaming gummy bears, iodine clocks, elephant tooth paste and fire bubbles! This would also be paired with drug safety talks with medicines you might find at home.
As well as this, I would use the money to help bring some groups of school/college students to the lab so they can see what a real-life lab is like and learn about things such as medicine delivery to the body, how we use analytical chemistry techniques to test medicines and drug safety.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, weird and enthusiastic.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Helped test athletes in the Olympics and Commonwealth games to make sure they weren’t cheating.
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?
Linkin Park or Foo Fighters.
What's your favourite food?
BBQ pulled pork.
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!
Could speak and understand every single language – even animals! Be able to teleport anywhere I wanted – when I wanted and 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!