It all started at Perryfields primary school, named for the pear fields on which it was built. Did they leave us any trees? No, they did not.
Onto Boswells secondary school and sixth form, the emblem was a shell keeping the nature theme up and running.
I studied for my degree in Biology at Royal Holloway and am currently doing a PhD at Queen Mary.
4 A Levels – Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and General Studies
1st Degree – Biology
- I volunteered at the Natural History Museum (NHM) throughout the course of my degree working on various projects including the annual butterfly house and cataloguing every species of whitefly, a common plant pest.
- After my degree, I did a traineeship at NHM called ‘Identification Trainers for the Future’. This was great fun, I was trained by scientists from all over the museum and got to work with the mayfly collection!
- A short-term contract funded by National Geographic followed. I sorted malaise traps preparing the samples for environmental DNA analysis.
- More recently, I started my PhD on the London NERC DTP.
I am now a research assistant at the Natural History Museum on the Darwin Tree of Life project. I work part-time on both my job and PhD. In my PhD, I research mating systems in loggerhead sea turtles.
The Natural History Museum
I am a biologist with a love of everything which crawls, flies or hops!
I live in Essex and spend my weekends in Bournemouth and York. I grew up in a household full of cats, six of them – there were people too! Cats end up in all sorts of strange places and some expected places, like trees. On one rescue mission, I distinctly remember watching a line of ants climbing a cherry tree and the fascination with insects started.
In my free time, I practice yoga and (before the pandemic) bouldering. Oh, and I love travelling to visit a good ancient ruin or two. Gardening has become my new hobby over the lockdown but I’m not very good at it – any tips are welcome!
My Work: My work focuses on finding and collecting samples, mostly insects, for DNA barcoding and whole genome sequencing. You'd be most likely to find me outdoors on a field trip or at the Natural History Museum in London.
I’m lucky enough to call the Natural History Museum my office. Something which continually amazes me about my job is walking through the galleries when no one else is there.
Once I’ve arrived at my desk I work with colleagues to build the collections of insects in the museum. We plan field trips to all corners of the country, sampling various habitats, and collecting new species – some are much easier to find than others. Eventually, we want to find all of the insects species in the Uk, that’s over 24000 species!
Another aspect of my job is maintaining the cold chain in order to preserve DNA for DNA barcoding and whole genome sequencing. This means working with dry ice which sits at -78°C and, even colder still, liquid nitrogen at -196°C. That’s much colder than the average temperature of Antarctica which is -60°C in the coldest areas.
Photos of my equipment:
Hintze Hall, before opening hours
Freshwater invertebrate collections at NHM
How has your work progressed recently?
This March I completed my first year in the job - it definitely had unexpected challenges due to the pandemic but a good team makes everything easier!
What have you got planned for your research over the next year?
Lots of fieldwork and sorting of samples!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
An optimistic biologist
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?
A lottery winner...
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only for uniform infringements
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A yoga teacher somewhere warm and exotic!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This doesn't quite fit the brief but I'm choosing the musical score for Lord of the Rings
What's your favourite food?
Pasta. Always pasta.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Watching the northern lights dance - fun and awe inspiring
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Always be wary of wishes, genies will not interpret them kindly