Photo:

Ee Lyn Lim

A HUGE thank you to everyone who took part, including the mods who kept the chats sane, and especially all the students for your great questions! I'll get cracking on that game as soon as I can ;)

Favourite Thing: Mulling over those cool things you read about in stories and comic books and fantasising about making them work in real life. Super-fast healing? Hmm…maybe if we tweaked this gene a bit…

My CV

Education:

Penang Chinese Girls’ High School, Malaysia (2001-07), University of Oxford (2008-12), University of Cambridge (2012-current)

Qualifications:

MBiochem Master in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

Work History:

Australian National University, Hong Kong University, California Institute of Technology (as a research intern); I’ve also taught English and History in a secondary school in Malaysia, and sold watches and shoes in a few random shopping malls.

Current Job:

PhD student

Employer:

Babraham Institute, Cambridge

Me and my work

I’m trying to find out why the battle between cancer and our immune system is so one-sided – what can we do to help our body’s army win?

Many people aren’t aware that cancer, like bacteria and viruses, can be detected and eliminated by our body’s immune system. But our immune system isn’t nearly as good at dealing with cancer as it is at dealing with infection, because cancer cells tend to look a lot like our normal healthy cells, and so are often able to protect themselves using the same mechanisms that usually serve to protect our normal cells from immune damage. My work looks at one protein in the immune cells, called p110-delta, which seems to allow better killing of cancer cells when it is disabled – what does it normally do in the immune system (i.e. why does it stop immune cells from getting rid of cancer properly) and how can we make use of drugs against this protein to treat cancer patients?

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My Typical Day

It’s a flurry of activity to set up experiments, then – several pairs of gloves later – I get some results back and I sit down to analyse them with a cup of tea.

It actually varies a lot! Some days I’m running around the lab from the moment I get in until the moment I leave (and those moments are rather more than eight hours apart…), those are the really busy days when all the experiments need to be done. Other days I only have a few loose ends to tie up in an experiment or two, and I spend several quiet hours sitting at my computer, making sense of my data, or catching up on the latest research articles. Most days are somewhere in between – so I need to be fairly organised to know what I’m doing on any given day!

(Or if I’m a bit less organised than I need to be, I end up taking notes on my glove – and then taking a picture of said glove for future reference…)

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What I'd do with the money

I’d make a science-based computer game! Are YOU the hero who will save the day with biology, chemistry and physics?

It came to me when I was studying for finals – all this stuff would be so much easier to learn if I could play a computer game about it. Lots of people already learn about history or geography from TV shows or games, so why not science? With £500 I would buy the equipment I need (game-making software, animation software, a graphics tablet etc.) and get cracking on it. Imagine this – in the not-so-distant future, the human body is hopelessly damaged by injury, disease, and age. You, a rookie field officer for the medical giant Cellverse Corporation, must journey through these ruins, find out what went wrong, and piece the world back together again…

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*Image credit to xkcd.com

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Geeky, purposeful, introverted.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I’d probably say Take That (I’m behind times, I know…)

What's your favourite food?

MUSHROOMS.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I sat in a train for three days travelling across the United States, from New York City to San Francisco. Sounds boring but the views were absolutely breathtaking!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A novelist!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Absolutely. I was involved in a hundred different activities and skipped class a lot…

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology, although English probably came quite close.

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

Embarrassingly I haven’t done much – I’ve only been in research for a year! Does blowing up a jar of agar (by accident I swear) count?

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My brother, who is a pharmacist. There was a lot of science talk in the house while I was growing up…

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

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

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

That I could have 48 hours a day (24 to do science in, and 24 to NOT do science in), that I could travel the world for free, and that dragons were real.

Tell us a joke.

I thought I might tell one about sodium hydride, but NaH.

Other stuff

Work photos:

Old haunts in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech):

My desk –

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My bench –

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and the tissue culture room where I lived out most of my days…

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