Trinity Church of England High School Manchester,
Xaverian Sixth Form College Manchester,
University of Edinburgh,
Imperial College London,
University of Edinburgh (again!)
4 A levels (Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Physics),
BSc Biological Sciences: Microbiology and Infection,
MSc in Modern Epidemiology,
PhD in immuno-epidemiology
Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,
Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Research Fellow at Imperial College London.
Favourite thing to do in my job: Teaching students
About Me: I live in London. I like drinking tea, reading books and riding my bike.
I live in east London. I like drinking tea, going for walks in the country and reading books. I don’t like bananas or tidying my room. I have an HIV virus cuddly toy (shown in the picture). I try and ride my bike to work every week – I get to ride past the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.
My Work: I work out how diseases like HIV spread between people and the best ways to stop them spreading.
I work on infectious diseases – those are diseases that spread between people. Mostly I work on HIV. I study how HIV spreads through a population, using computers and lots of information that’s been collected from people. I use a computer to run a model, or simulation, of HIV passing between people – its a bit like spreading a disease in a computer game. Then I use the model to see what happens if different things happen in the future – e.g. we test more people for HIV or give more people treatment for HIV – and see what is the best thing to do to stop more people getting infected.
At the moment I mainly work on HIV in the United States, which means I get to visit the United States two or three times a year. I used to work on HIV in India and I’ve also done projects in China and Nigeria, which meant I got to visit them too.
The United States have a new plan to reduce the number of people getting HIV by 90% over the next 10 years. I am currently doing some modelling to see the best way for them to know that their plan has succeeded.
My work also involves giving talks about my work, usually to other scientists but also to doctors and people who make health policy, and to people affected by HIV. I also write papers about my work which get published in journals. And I also teach other people how to model HIV and other diseases.
My Typical Day: I ride my bike into work, switch my computer on, then have a cup of tea. I spend most of the day working on my computer, doing sums or drawing graphs or writing. Sometimes I meet people to talk about their projects. And I drink more tea!
My days vary, but a typical day looks somthing like this:
9.30 arrive at work, have a cup of tea
9.30-11.30 work at my computer on my main project – writing computer code, running simulations on the computer, doing sums on data, or making graphs and writing papers about what I have found
11.30-12 check my email – I work with lots of people who live in the United States, so I often get email they sent the night before
12-1 do some more work on my main project on my computer or sometimes go to a lunchtime talk
1-2 have lunch
2-3.30 have some more tea, and have meetings with my boss or my students or colleagues about my projects or their projects. We talk about progress, discuss any problems and ways we could solve them, then talk about the next things we’ll do.
3.30-5 either do some more work on my main project or look at graphs or results or papers from my students or colleagues and give feedback on them
5-5.30 check my email again, make a plan for the work I will do the next day
What I'd do with the prize money: I would develop a new activity for school students which will show how a disease can spread between people. The activity will show how important it is to think about who contacts who, and about people who spread infection to lots of other people.
I would develop a new activity that can be used for a whole class to show how infectious diseases can spread between people, and to show the importance of ‘mixing’ – who contacts who – and of ‘superspreaders’ – people who infect many more people than the average person.
I would use some of the prize money to try out some different ways of mimicking disease spread in the classroom to find the way that works best. Some possible ways would be having a gel on your hand which gets onto other peoples hands when you shake hands, or passing on tokens which are ‘infectious’ or ‘not infectious’. Ideally a way that people couldn’t see if you were infected, or even that people didn’t know that they were infected until later.
The activity would involve telling each student how many other students they need to contact, giving one or two students the disease (secretly!) and then each student ‘contacting’ their given number of other students and shaking hands/exchanging tokens etc. At the end, you see how many students are infected. You would then repeat this twice, once restricting who students could contact (e.g. you can only contact people with the same colour hair as you), and once with a few students having to contact a large number of people, and everyone else only contacting one or two other students.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
quiet, creative, geeky
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My high school science teacher, Ms Tattersall
What was your favourite subject at school?
Science - and Art!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A university student
Were you ever in trouble at school?
not really - I was a bit of a goody goody!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A public health doctor or analyst
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Driven a canal boat under spaghetti junction
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To have thicker hair, be better at talking to new people, and have more confidence
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea.