Universities of Oxford, Bath & Nottingham.
Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick
School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick
Favourite thing to do in my job: Exchange ideas with people
Sword-wielding, statistics-loving microbiologist
I lead a team of microbiologists at the University of Warwick. We try to find out how some bacteria are able to cause untreatable infections. This involves thinking about evolution and ecology, because these infections are surprisingly biodiverse ecosystems. We also try to find new and better ways to treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
The things I enjoy most about my work are the fact that science is very creative, and very social. I spend a lot of time talking to different people and finding ways to pool our skills to solve problems. I also love having a big data set to analyse and draw graphs from…
In my spare time, I enjoy medieval swordfighting, cooking and eating nice meals with my friends, and lots of different craft activities.
Why are some bacteria impossible to kill?
Why are chronic infections so hard to treat?A lot of my team’s research focusses on the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This species is a major cause of disease in people whose normal immune defences don’t work properly. In particular, it causes very long-lived infections in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, persisting for decades and evolving to adapt to the patient’s body and to antibiotic treatment. We are working with a new model of lung infection to study how Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other bacteria interact, evolve and become resistant to antibiotic treatment during chronic cystic fibrosis infection. You can find out more about this work in the following video, made by the Microbiology Society.Ancientbiotics: can we find new antibiotics by learning from history?Throughout history, people have suffered from infectious diseases. From the Black Death to modern “superbugs” like MRSA, troublesome microbes have caused illness, death, and changes in our behaviour and society. Our lab is part of a team of researchers from different disciplines – microbiologists, philologists, medicinal chemists and pharmacologists – who are working together to study the history of infectious disease, and to see if it can inform our future responses to pathogens.Want to know more?Check out my lab website to find out more about my post-docs and graduate students, and the things we do!
My Typical Day
There isn't one!
There’s not really a typical day, but this video (made when I worked at the University of Nottingham) will give you some idea of the different things I do in a typical week.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Always wears purple
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to travel abroad to visit new countries and meet new people. But the thing that gives me most pleasure and the biggest sense of achievement is the teaching I’ve done. I teach undergraduate students and those moments when I see the subject matter ‘click’ and the students start understanding and gaining confidence is amazing.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Lots of people inspired me, and helped me persevere when things seemed too difficult.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Environmental Science and History. I guess I've managed to bring the two together in my career!
What did you want to be after you left school?
Until I was 16 I wanted to study politics and work in the music industry. Then when I started doing A-level Environmental Science I realised that what I really, really wanted to be was a scientist. So I picked up an extra A-level in Biology and the rest is history.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was told to stop talking a lot.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Too many to list! But the band I listen to the most is probably the Sisters of Mercy, and my favourite band to see live is Blind Guardian.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
My favourite hobby is historical combat and reenactment. There’s just something about wearing chain mail and charging down a hill with a sword, screaming insults at your friends before you hack each other to ‘death’ that makes me very happy.
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a three-legged donkey? A wonky.