Before doing my PhD in the UK my entire education happened in Germany. I went to school in my home town and when I graduated moved on to study for a BSc in Cell Biology in Osnabrueck and MSc in Biomedical Sciences in Bonn. I finished my Masters in 2015 and then went to University College London to study Cell Biology. I got my PhD this year and am still working at UCL.
I finished middle school at 15, then got my permission to go to University at 19 and went on to study Biology: I have a BSc in Cell Biology, MSc in Biomedical Science and a PhD from University College London in Cell Biology of Infection and Virology
As a Bachelor student I worked part time as a Zoo educator.. that was a lot of fun because I got free entry to the Zoo and I could tell people about all the amazing animals and what we need to change to protect them in the wild.
I also did internships in different labs in Poland, South Africa and New Zealand during my BSc.
In my Masters I then briefly worked for the Pharma Company Bayer HealthCare in Berlin and now I work as a Scientist at UCL. Aside from that I write science articles for an online newsletter called BioNews from time to time.
I am a Scientist at UCL and I study how viruses manipulate the cellular immune system.
I work at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at University College London. It is funded by the UK Medical Research Council. This is the Institute:
We have a lot of different labs who study many aspects of Biology from the immune system, to viruses, to mechanics of how cells move to how lipids are composed. That makes for a really exciting environment and there is always something new to learn from other people!
Favourite thing to do in my job: To find out things no-one knew before!
About Me: I am a Scientist at University College London who studies virus interactions with the cells they infect. Outside of work (and when we are not in isolation) I love to travel and good out for a drink with my friends!
I live in the northern part of London in a tiny apartment by myself. My boyfriend is South African and currently does a PhD in Switzerland.. as such we spend a lot of our free time and money on visiting each other (at least we used to until February). I have always been really interested in viruses and wanted to become a researcher who helps finding cures and vaccines for infectious diseases.
My favourite TV show was Game of Thrones before it was ruined by the terrible last two seasons but I also really liked Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad. In my free time I like to meet friends, explore London and travel a lot.. since I can’t do that now I am mainly at home reading books and watching YouTube.
I am also a writer for an online science magazine and involved in initiatives that attempt to reduce plastic waste in science.
My Work: I study how a virus called Vaccinia is infecting cells and how it manipulates the immune system of those cells.
The virus I work on ‘Vaccinia Virus’ is actually the first virus that was ever used as a ‘vaccine’.. that is also were the name comes from. As such it was used to completely eliminate Smallpox from the planet. This is the only pathogen that has ever been extinct because humans eradicated it. Before we got rid of it the virus might have killed up to 500 million people… even pharaohs of ancient Egypt have been found to have had the virus (you can find some pox scars on mummies).
There are still a few other pox viruses in the world and some are dangerous to humans. So its important to better understand them. I study how Vaccinia circumvents the immune system, in particular one aspect that is called ‘autophagy’. In autophagy cells essentially eat pathogens within them up to make them no longer dangerous. It a very exciting part of the immune defence and very effective. But many viruses have found ways to ‘trick’ autophagy and still infect the cell… including vaccinia. I work on finding out how vaccinia does it so we can better understand what viruses do to cells and maybe what we can do to prevent that.
My Typical Day: When I get to work I check my week plan for what I need to do that day. I first warm up all reagents I will need that are kept in the fridge. Then I might infect some cells with virus. While the infection is going on (usually for several hours).. I might do some microscopy of old experiments. After lunch I prepare new cells for experiments the next day. I also spend time in between with analysing data and reading about new research from other people. I go home after I have stopped the infection.. sometimes that is only after 12 hours.
Its difficult to say what I do in a typical day because the great thing about science is its always different: On Friday I make a plan about what I want to get done in the next week. You need to be very organised as a scientist!
I then group the tasks into blocks that I can get done each day. One experiment usually takes 3-5 days to complete. Which means on Monday I need to prepare cells for infection the next day. The infection can last anywhere from 30minutes to 12 hours on Tuesday. On Wednesday I will then use the infection samples and prepare them so I can look at them under the microscope. And on Wednesday I will image them on the Microscope. I can then analyse the pictures of the infected cells I took on Thursday. To be more efficient I usually have 3-4 of these long experiments running at the same time but they will all be at different stages so I always have something to do.
When there is some free time where I don’t need to do lab work, I analyse data or I read new research from other people so I can learn new things other people in my field have found out. That way I might get new ideas for my own project… or I have a coffee break with my friends 🙂
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Nerdy, outgoing, night owl (Yes I know thats 4 but how do you say in one word that you don't like getting up early?)
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Growing up I didn't know anyone who was a Scientist.. but I read a book when I was maybe 8 in which they wrote about medicine and in it they said in 100 years we will have a cure for every disease we know today! Now I know that that won't be true but then I thought.. I want to be part of finding these cures!
What was your favourite subject at school?
Biology and History
What did you want to be after you left school?
A scientist in the medical field so it worked out quite well! :)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
In 6th grade or Geography teacher found a piece of paper with notes on it on the table during an exam and blamed it on me. It was actually the one of my desk neighbour but I didn't say anything so I got an F in the test. I worked really hard for the next one then and got a C as final mark so it wasn't too bad.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
My moms homemade Cheesecake
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Traveling to South Africa and jumping from the highest commercial Bungee Jump in the world.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Especially at the moment that all of my family stays healthy! Then that one day I will make a really big discovery in the field I work in. And the last one I'll keep a secret!
Tell us a joke.
Do you know the mad hatters riddle from Alice in Wonderland: What does a Raven have in common with a desk? The answer is LAMP! A desk has a lamp on it but ravens.. like all animals have lamp proteins in them! Yes it is very nerdy but what did you expect? I'm a scientist!