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Martin Turner

Research Group Leader and Head of Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

We are interested in how lymphocytes develop from blood stem cells. What are the genes and signals that control this process? Once formed, how is the response of lymphocytes to infection regulated?

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

I like reading and talking about science and I try to do as much of that as possible. I also have responsibilities for reviewing grants and manuscripts; budgets; mentoring; strategic issues and personnel matters; so it’s quite varied

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

So far, being involved in the basic science required for the development of inhibitors of TNF and PI3Kdelta

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I liked doing experiments and will always appreciate the craftsmanship involved in a good experiment

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

UCL, Biochemistry

What A Levels did you take?

Chemistry, Biology, Maths (with statistics), General Studies

What was your favourite subject at school?

History

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A historian or a footballer

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Creative critical thinker

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Anne Corcoran

Research Group Leader in the Nuclear Dynamics Programme

What is your research about?

We are trying to understand the mechanisms required for antibody recombination - how this huge piece of DNA with hundreds of genes is unwound and changes shape to bring all the genes together so they can all be cut and pasted together to make millions of different antibody sequences. This will help us to understand what goes wrong when older people can't fight infection and may give us some tools we can use to improve their response to infection.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

Every day is different. My favourite part is one to one meetings with students and postdocs to discuss their results, solve technical issues and plan the next steps. It's really exciting to see their research stories develop and makes up for not having time to do experiments myself, which I miss. There is often a committee meeting to develop the Institute's science policy or look after our Graduate students, or a lunchtime seminar, where we're lucky to get many great speakers. There is always some big piece of writing to do, e.g. a paper on our latest results, or a grant application. Sometimes there are deadlines, which are a bit stressful, but I really enjoy bringing our research to a coherent conclusion and developing new hypotheses based on our data.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I and my group discovered that antibody recombination is preceded by extensive production of RNA molecules that don't make protein - so called non-coding RNA, and this has prompted several other groups to investigate this. Together we have found that controlling the expression of RNA determines which genes are used in recombination.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My biology teacher, who despite being a nun in a convent school, was the first women to study science in Ireland in the 1940s. She was quite old when she taught me, but was really passionate about the subject and about teaching us to be curious and to find out how things worked.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to University College Dublin. I studied Science (Biochemistry major, Chemistry minor), and then did my PhD in the Department of Medicine, studying mechanisms of thyroid disease.

What A Levels did you take?

I didn’t take A levels, but did the Irish Leaving Cert (IB equivalent) in Biology, Chemistry, Maths, English, Irish, French and German

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology and English

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A psychotherapist

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Patient, focussed, curious

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Klaus Okkenhaug

Research Group Leader in Lymphocyte Signalling

What is your research about?

We investigate the role of a family of enzymes called PI3K and how they affect our immune responses to infections and cancer.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

Most often, I am in my office where I write manuscripts and grant proposals, discuss data and plan experiments with my group members. I also spend some time travelling to meetings to discuss science with colleagues around the world.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I have helped provided some to the insights required to develop effective drugs against PI3Ks, which are starting to benefit patients.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

During my undergraduate years I was inspired to work on tropical diseases like malaria. I realised that to do so, I had to learn some immunology and so applied for a PhD. In the end, I stuck with immunology and have never worked on malaria.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I did my undergraduate degree in biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. I then went to the University of Toronto to study for a PhD in Immunology.

What A Levels did you take?

I went to high school in Toronto where I studied chemistry, biology, physics, maths and English

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A teacher or a doctor

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, enthusiastic, easily distracted (sorry, that’s four words)

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Rahul Roychoudhuri

Research Group Leader in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

We are hoping to learn how transcription factors guide the differentiation of immune cells called T lymphocytes.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

I spend around 50% of my time at the bench doing experiments – this is the fun part. I spend around 20% of my time analysing data and arranging collaborations with other scientists so that the scope of our findings can be broadened to other related fields. I spend the remaining time reading articles published by others in the field, writing manuscripts that will eventually be published and putting together grants to attract funding for future research.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Inspiring students and sharing my passion for science

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The Selfish Gene’

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to Cambridge University and studied Natural Sciences (Genetics) as part of my medical training – I came to science the long way round!

What A Levels did you take?

Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A doctor

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, collaborative, inquisitive

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Alison Galloway

Research Scientist in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I am investigating the role of RNA binding proteins in immune cell development. The RNA binding proteins I work on bind to a subset of messenger RNAs, RNA copies of sections of your DNA that each contain the instructions to produce a protein; the RNA binding proteins cause them to be broken down thus slowing protein production. These RNA binding proteins are required for the development of B and T lymphocytes which are types of white blood cell.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

There isn’t necessarily a typical day. Some days I will spend nearly all my time in the lab doing an experiment, other days I might spend all my time in the office analysing my results or planning my next experiments. After work, whenever there’s time, I go kayaking on the River Cam.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

This would have to be handing in my final bound PhD thesis into the registry office in Cambridge- I was dead chuffed!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I’m not sure exactly how I decided to be a scientist. I was always interested in how things work, but took the greatest interest in how we and other organisms work- so the study of biochemistry/ molecular biology just made sense.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I did a BSc in biochemistry at the University of Bath, then a PhD in molecular biology at the Babraham institute/ University of Cambridge.

What A Levels did you take?

I did A levels in biology, chemistry and physics and an AS in maths.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Science, sorry no massive surprise there.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I might have trained to try and get onto the senior GB squad for flatwater racing kayaking, but there were no guarantees I would be fast enough! Or I could have studied to be a vet or a doctor, but more non-scientific ideas would include working in a zoo, filming documentaries, or I could be a sports instructor (kayaking or diving perhaps).

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Adventurous, creative and inquisitive.

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Sarah Bell

Research Scientist in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

Understanding how RNA binding proteins regulate immune cell function

Fnd out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

It varies – sometimes working at the bench – could be half a day or a full day , other days could be spent at my desk analysing data or managing the laboratory resources, sometimes attending meetings to discuss science with other members of the laboratory or Institute

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Encouraging and training (and hopefully inspiring!) junior colleagues in the labs I’ve worked in

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve always been interested in how things work – the body, the natural world etc.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

University of Durham – Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

What A Levels did you take?

Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, General Studies

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths & Chemistry

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Not sure, perhaps working in horticulture or gardening!

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Conscientious, reliable, good-natured

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Amy MacQueen

Research Scientist in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I work on a protein called PI-3-Kinase in a special type of white blood cell called T cells. There are different forms of PI-3-kinase and I am looking at how they work inside T cells to help them do their job of protecting us from infection!

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

In science there is no real typical day – there is always something new to discover! Mostly my days involve a lot of laughter, fun and hard work! You can use lots of skills that you might not expect to go together - like thinking, creativity, communicating, problem solving…and lots of patience!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I had the fantastic opportunity of going to Nassau in the Bahamas to present my work to scientific experts in immunology. It was absolutely brilliant! We shared lots of good scientific ideas, enjoyed local food and went snorkelling with the fish!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My standard grade (GCSE) and higher (A level) teachers really did inspire me to do Biology. They were enthusiastic, encouraging and genuinely a little bit crazy! Up until that point I didn’t like science at all in school, I thought it was pretty dull, but I liked living…and Biology is the science of life!

What A Levels did you take?

I went to school in Scotland – and we don’t do A levels! But we do Highers and for those I studied English, Maths, Geography, History, Modern Studies, Biology and Chemistry.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to the University of Glasgow where I did an M.Sci in “Molecular and Cellular Biology”. This degree included a placement year working in industry at a company called UCB in Cambridge in their “Inflammation centre of excellence”.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology, but I also really enjoyed Art and Graphic design!

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A Blue Peter presenter, a farmer or a pro-skateboarder. Unfortunately, I lack the skills required for all of these so I think I will have to stick to science for now.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, optimistic, banterful

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Karen Anderson

Research Scientist in the Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

Our research investigates the molecular mechanisms by which neutrophils transduce input stimulatory signals into cellular responses, focusing on a family of enzyme proteins PI3Kinase’s

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

A typical day is spent mainly in the lab performing experiments and processing samples, as well as analysing and interpreting the data- ready to plan the next experiment

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Sharing my skills and knowledge to others- especially students

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I always loved science at school and was amazing by how complicated and finely organised even one single cell in our body was- let alone co-ordinating every cell to function together

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

Melbourne University in Australia- Biochemistry

What A Levels did you take?

Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Advanced Maths and English – Higher School Certificate in Melbourne Australia

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I think I would have always gone into something to do with science- I did consider Optometry or being a Vet

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, determined, organised

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Tamara Chessa

Research Scientist in the Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I work on prostate cancer, trying to find out what interacts with PI3Kinases to drive prostate cancer growth.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

I work with healthy and cancerous prostate tissue and isolate proteins from these tissues, which are then analysed by a method looking at known protein size called Western blotting, or a method that can identify unknown proteins in complex samples, called mass spectrometry.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Adding something new to existing knowledge.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My father, who sadly passed away from lung cancer.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to the University of Amsterdam and studied medical biology.

What A Levels did you take?

None – but I did the equivalent in Holland!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Chemistry, mathematics and arts.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Not sure!

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Motivated, creative and innovative.

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Lyn Lim

Research Student in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I’m trying to find out why the battle between cancer and our immune system is so one-sided, and what we can do to help our body’s army win. I’m working on a new potential therapeutic target called PI3Kδ – the goal is to figure out how best it can be used to treat cancer.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

Flow cytometry! It’s a rare day that I don’t pay a visit to my friend the flow cytometer – a machine to measure cells. That means most of my days involve tending to some cells I have in culture, or have taken from a mouse, and then staining them with a mixture of antibodies that will show up bright and colourful on the cytometer.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Probably, this is! Day-to-day work in the lab can be slow to yield results, and after nearly three years in research I don’t have much to show for it. But when I talk to people about my project, I realise how much we as a field have actually learned, and puts back into perspective the fact that what I’m doing will actually help someone someday.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

It might be a bit surprising when I say it was almost a given thing when I was in school! Everyone who got decent grades was automatically registered to sit science GCSEs (or equivalents), unless they specifically objected. I wasn’t too fussed though – I liked the subjects. Although my decision to go into research, instead of, for example, consultancy or even medicine, was strongly bolstered by my undergraduate tutor at Oxford, who had an amazing passion for his work.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford, studying Biochemistry.

What A Levels did you take?

I didn’t do A Levels exactly – I had an equivalent exam in Malaysia (which is where I grew up), and I took Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and English Literature, as well as a compulsory General Paper.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology, although English probably came quite close.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A novelist. I’ve always loved to write stories, and still do.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Geeky, purposeful, introverted.

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Joana Guedes

Research Student in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I study the relationship between pathogens and their host.

Find out mere here

What’s a typical day for you?

I don’t necessarily have a daily routine, although I check on my cell cultures every day, and feed them when necessary. Then I would divide my days in two types: 1. when I have experiments, in which I start early in the morning and do lab work all day; 2. When I analyse the data that I collect during experiments, in which my days are spent on the computer.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Answering a question. By the end of my master degree I was able to answer one of the several questions that scientists pursue. In my group we were studying how mycobacterium tuberculosis interacts with host cells, and we discovered a little part of the mechanism.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

On my second year at University, I had a teacher who was a scientist, working on breast cancer research. She used to talk about it with passion and I found myself getting very interested in her work. In the third year of my bachelor program, I did an internship with her and that was when I decided that I wanted to become a scientist.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to University in Portugal, graduated in the equivalent of Biomedical Sciences

What A Levels did you take?

The equivalent in Portugal

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I guess that if I weren’t a scientist I would be working in legal medicine.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Positive, relaxed, social.

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Marisa Stebegg

Research Student in the Lymphocyte Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I am currently trying to understand the innate immune response of intestinal epithelial cells, the cells lining our gut. Immune cells like dendritic cells, T- and B-cells are typically implicated in protecting our body from pathogens, but the gut epithelium by itself also exerts important immune functions and this is what I want to look into more deeply.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

I usually get to work around 8am by walking 5 min from my shared flat (in on-site accommodation provided by the institute) to the laboratory. When doing experiments, I usually spend the day isolating intestinal epithelial cells from mice or performing cell culture-related work, but there are also days which I spend entirely in front of the computer, analysing my data or catching up on novel publications online. Mostly, I leave work around 5-6pm, sometimes staying longer to finish my experiments. The evenings I spend mostly with my flatmates, all of whom also work as scientists at the Babraham Institute, or skyping with my friends back home in Austria.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I am only at the beginning of my scientific career, without any major achievements up to now. The best moments for me as a scientist, however, are when my experiments work out fine and give me new, intriguing results. And I will be more than happy if, in the long run, my work can help increase our understanding of how living organisms work, potentially paving the way for improved medical treatments.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I decided to become a scientist just because I really wanted to learn about how our body works and what all the amazing living things around us are made up of.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I am currently enrolled for the University of Vienna’s Master’s degree program “Molecular Cellular Biology”, after finishing my Bachelor’s degree of “Biology” at the same university.

What A Levels did you take?

I attended a school with a focus on arts, taking my A levels in Mathematics, German literature, Latin, English language and History.

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject in school was definitely Mathematics, thanks to our great Maths teacher Mrs Mosshammer.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I am not sure, but I would perhaps be doing something completely different like working in a bakery or patisserie.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Sociable, inquisitive, frantic

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Bryony Stubbs

Research Student in the Nuclear Dynamics Programme

What is your research about?

I want to understand how we make millions of different antibodies – I’m investigating the very first step of this process, where segments of DNA are cut and pasted together to make a new, unique antibody.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

My days are very varied, which I love – I’ll maybe start looking at some data from a past experiment, get distracted by my lab mates offering me cake, nip into the lab for a quick experiment… then eventually get back to the data. At some point I’ll get stuck and go and talk it over with someone or scribble all over my notepad trying to understand it, and hopefully I’ll have a eureka moment before it’s time to go home and play either my piano or a game of badminton.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I love coming up with ideas – so whenever I have the chance to gather all my results together, have a good think about them and then come up with an explanation and a new experiment to test my new idea – those are the best moments for me.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My teachers throughout the years inspired me – from my middle school science teacher who always came up with fun experiments to show how we can try to understand the world we live in, through to my director of studies at university who encouraged me to really understand what I was doing and give myself time to think.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I studied Natural Sciences (which is just a mixture of whichever sciences I fancied) at Cambridge University – I specialised in Biochemistry.

What A Levels did you take?

I took biology, chemistry, maths and further maths.

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subjects for ages were art and English – and then we learnt about genes and DNA and I was hooked.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

An artist and poet, wandering the globe and trading my musings for food. So it’s possibly for the best that I’m a scientist.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Impractical but determined!

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Peter Chovanec

Research Student in the Nuclear Dynamics programme

What is your research about?

I am currently characterising a mouse model which contains a transgene for the human immunoglobulin locus. Using this model I aim to study the epigenetic and developmental mechanisms which are involved in human B-cell development and antibody diversity.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

One of the great aspects to being a scientist is that every day is different. Usually I will spend part of my morning reading recent publications to keep up to date on what is happening in my field of research. Afterwards I enter the lab and perform all kinds of experiments, often using various different techniques. The remainder of my time is spent analysing data obtained from experiments and planning future experiments.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I got to travel and spend a year in France researching CBP/p300 in breast cancer, which was very rewarding. I have also enjoyed public engagement and outreach programs through which I’ve been able to communicate and share my knowledge.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

One of the influences that drove me to science was the TV show MacGyver.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to the University of York studying Genetics.

What A Levels did you take?

I didn’t do A Levels, but for my International Baccalaureate I did biology, chemistry, mathematics, economy, English literature and French.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Mathematics

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Photographer/programmer

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, determined, patient

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Martin Baker

Research Student in the Signalling Programme

What is your research about?

I investigate how cells interpret their environment and respond to it. Specifically I'm interested in a protein called Rac that acts as a molecular switch. When it is 'on' it controls cell movement, growth and many other important things. I'm working as part of a team that studies the proteins that activate Rac, switching it into its 'on' state. It is important for us to know how Rac is activated, and the proteins that are involved in this activation, because the misregulation of Rac is a common contributing factor in cancer.

Find out more here

What’s a typical day for you?

Every day is different but generally I'm either planning experiments or doing experiments. Occasionally I also get opportunities to present my work as well as travelling abroad for conferences.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

As a scientist I get to play with some really cool bits of kit! But the most exciting pieces of equipment I've used so far have to be the high powered microscopes that enable us to see right inside the cell. They allow us to take amazing pictures of things in living cells, some things that people haven't observed before! I like some of the pictures so much that they are even put onto canvas and hung on my wall at home...

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I had some great teachers at school. They all inspired and encouraged me, as well as pushing me to do the best I could do.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I studied Biochemistry at the University of Bristol

What A Levels did you take?

Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Music.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology and Music must come in joint first place.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Bored... unless I could find something that challenges and pushes me.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, dedicated, impulsive