I went to Heswall Primary School, then Calday Grange Grammar School, on the Wirral. After that, I did a degree in Zoology at Sheffield University before a PhD at Imperial College London.
4 A Levels (Biology, Geography, English Literature and General Studies!)
My career has been pretty straightforward!
1. After my PhD I worked for two years as a post-doctoral research assistant at Imperial College London, on a project looking at how plants and insects use metals.
2. For three years I was a coordinator of zoological data and research at the Biological Records Centre, basically helping to understand where insects can be found in Britain.
3. I then took at job at the Natural History Museum, as a curator of wasps.
I am now Principal Curator in charge of the insect collections at the Natural History Museum, with a team of 21 curators.
The Natural History Museum
I am a lover of bugs, birds, brambles, all of nature. I am luck enough to work at the Natural History Museum in London.
I live in Kent, but I grew up near Liverpool, near the sea. A life-long interest in nature led to a career in wasps. Outside of work I still look at wasps, but also birds, flowers, and anything else. In the distant past I used to write things and with friends wrote a show for the Edinburgh Fringe. Now I try and interest my daughter in the natural world, which she is very interested in eating.
I help to look after one of the world’s biggest collections of insects: 30 million insects at the Natural History Museum. My favourite insects are wasps, especially parasitic wasps, and I discover many new species of these.
Most of my work is carried out here in Britain, where I collect insects and work on insects that have been in the museum for many years. We extract DNA from some of these insects, so we can discover more about how they have evolved. Sometimes I collect caterpillars or other young insects and then hope that a wasp will be inside! These wasps parasitise other insects and I am trying to find out more about how they live. Sometimes I am lucky and I have trips to South America, North America, South Africa, China, etc. I work a lot on the wasps of Vietnam, but I have never been there!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
waspy, big hair
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only for not doing my homework!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
writer (a bad, probably unemployed writer)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Fun/scary: performing comedy sketches to a paying audience
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To visit Australia; to live by the sea; to be proud of my daughter
Tell us a joke.
A man went into a record shop complaining, 'this isn't at all what I thought I was buying, I wanted a recording of wasp noises. But listen to this!' He plays the record and indeed, there are no scratching noises, just a humming sound. The record shop owner say, 'But sir, that is the correct record, you're listening to the bee side...'