I went to Grantown Grammar School in a small town in the highlands of Scotland. MMath Statistics at the University of St Andrews. PhD in Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge.
8 standard grades (now Nat 5s) in Maths, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, History and Admin. 5 Highers in Maths, English, Physics, Business Management and French. 2 Advanced Highers in Maths and French.
MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh (where I work now), as a medical statistician at the University of Oxford. In the summers, when I was at university, I worked as a receptionist in a health centre and also at a holiday park. I’ve also had a summer job in a pensions and investment company (this played a big part in my decision to do a PhD in something completely different).
I hold a UKRI Innovation research fellowship in the MRC Human Genetics Unit which is part of the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
University of Edinburgh
Favourite thing to do in my job: Learning what my students have discovered and helping them to work out how to investigate their new problems
About Me: I'm a statistician trying to understand cancer biology. I love hiking, skiing and spending time on Irish beaches.
I live in a town in the hills to the south of Edinburgh with my husband. I enjoy hillwalking and generally spending time outside in the sunshine. We spend a lot of our holidays on the west coast of Ireland visiting family, walking on the beach and swimming in the sea.
I always liked maths at school and was interested in medicine but didn’t want to be a doctor. I had no idea at the time that it was possible to use maths and in particular statistics (which I hated at school) to do medical research. Now I get to do just that! Also, I find statistics a lot more interesting now that I can use it to answer real biomedical questions.
My Work: I use statistics and machine learning to find patterns of mutation in the DNA of samples taken from cancer patients to work out which treatments will work best for which patients and when they should be given them.
I am UKRI Innovation fellow working in the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. This means I have funding of my own to tackle a particular research question but that I don’t yet lead my own research group. My research finds new ways of using maths and statistics to pick out useful and interesting information from the DNA in samples taken from cancer patients. This means that I work with lots of different types of scientists. These can be other statisticians like me, but also molecular biologists, chemists, physicists and computer scientists. I also as you might guess work with doctors in the hospital who are looking after cancer patients.
I’m particularly interested in trying to find changes in the DNA of samples from cancer patients that haven’t been studied that much because they’re hard to find. Then, we can try to understand how these changes might help the tumour to grow. The idea is that patients with these changes may be able to take a drug which slows down the growth of the tumour.
I also work with a couple of students who are interested in similar questions to me to help them try and answer those questions and to help them learn to be better scientists themselves.
My Typical Day: I usually start the day with a cup of tea and by catching up with other scientists in my team. I spend the rest of the day planning future experiments, analysing data from current experiments or sharing new discoveries with other scientists. I also enjoy regular chocolate-themed snacks throughout the day.
My typical day starts with an early bus ride (with flask of tea!) from where I live near the hills outside the city to my office. When I arrive I say hello to the other scientists in my team and hear what they’ve been up to. Most of my day is spent at my computer where I write instructions to tell the computer where in a large amount of data to look for interesting new discoveries. But I don’t spend all day at the computer! I spend lots of time meeting other researchers and talking about what they’re doing and what we’re going to do next as a team. I also spend time chatting to students working with me to find out how they’re getting on and to encourage them in working out what questions to investigate next.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Passionate, determined and encouraging
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My grandma. She was the smartest lady I've ever met! She was a teacher of course!
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
A scientist or a teacher. In some ways I've ended up doing both!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No not really
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would be a forensic scientist and analyse data to fight crime!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Pizza - without a doubt. I could eat it every day!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Trekked down to the base of the Grand Canyon stayed over night then trekked back up. It was incredible! But hard work coming up!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I'd wish to: 1) to start my own research group, 2) spend more time skiing and 3) to worry less!
Tell us a joke.
Why was the maths book sad? Because it had too many problems!