I'm loving the questions: what is ethics and why do we sleep?!
1985-1991: Harrogate Grammar School, 1991-1993: Newcastle University, 1993-1995: Manchester University, 1995-2000: Leeds University
PhD Genetics and Psychology, MSc Genetic Counselling, Bsc Genetics, A levels: Biology, Maths, Chemistry, General Studies
2010- now: Sanger Institute, Cambridge; 2005-2010: Cardiff University; 2001-2005: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge; 1995-2001: St James’ Hospital, Leeds
Ethics Researcher, Senior Staff Scientist
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge
Favourite thing to do in my job: I run research projects that gather attitudes towards the use of genetics. My favourite thing is making a difference to people affected by genetic disorders.
My Work: I explore ethics and genetics and the impact of this on people
I’m a ‘social scientist’ so I’m interested in the impact of science on people and society. Very soon the NHS will be offering ‘sequencing’ to 100,000 patients. This means that their 20,000 genes will be looked at. That’s a lot of genes! What would you want to know? Cancer? Heart disease? Should only serious, treatable conditions be explored? What about conditions that you can do nothing about? These are questions that I am exploring in my research. The results of my research will be used to help decide what information will be fed back to patients.
Here is a survey I designed, there are 10 short films in it: https://survey.sanger.ac.uk/genomethics/
Before becoming a social scientist I worked in the health service as a ‘genetic counsellor’ – here I explained genetics to families affected by various conditions and worked out what the chances were of passing on or inheriting a condition.
My Typical Day: Writing, listening, thinking and presenting my findings.
My days are a mixture of sitting at a computer writing and talking to people. I do ‘social science’ and so I know how to design surveys and interview studies. My current research has involved 7000 people from 91 different countries and a typical day at the moment involves analysing what these 7000 people say about genetics.
I also spend a lot of time talking at scientific conferences, so that the scientists get to learn about the impact of their work and how people want to use it. At the moment I’m preparing a presentation to give in Cambridge and later this year I’m going to Australia, so I’m creating the slides and making sure my results are presented clearly.
What I'd do with the prize money: Buy some voting equipment
I spend a lot of time talking to other scientists, health professionals and members of the public about my work. I find the best way to deliver my research is to ask the audience what they would want to know from their genes. You can do this by asking people to raise their hands if they would want a test or not, but people often feel embarrassed to share their thoughts in front of others. I’d like to buy some voting equipment of my own that I can take to presentations so that the audience can press a button on a voting pad, this way they can give anonymous answers. The voting equipment means that the audience can participate rather than just listen to me speak and it’s also good fun too!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
friendly, approachable, curious
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, not really. I used to sew up my school skirt to make it into a mini skirt and that would always get me told off by the teachers
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Last Night’s Fun (Denny is my cousin’s husband!)
What's your favourite food?
Fish and chips
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Make my 7 year old son laugh so hard that he turns purple
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. to be happy forever 2. for my kids to be happy forever 3. to always make a difference at work
Tell us a joke.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Wooden shoe. Wooden shoe who? Wooden shoe like to be a scientist? ……[yeah, I know, it’s a rubbish joke….]