Favourite thing to do in my job: My little daughter Katie. (Sorry, I realize it’s a soppy answer)
I work on a set of proteins which, if faulty, can “cause” schizophrenia. I am trying to work out how these proteins work and how we might be able to fix them.
About 20 years ago, my colleagues discovered a large family (over 80 people), almost half of who had schizophrenia or another major mental illness. 10 years later, they discovered that all of the family members with the schizophrenia had the same “break” in one of their genes, called DISC1. We have since discovered “faults” in this gene can cause mental illness in many other people round the world. The DISC1 gene tells the body how to make a protein (also called DISC1).
My work, which I began as a PhD student and have now carried on since, involves seeing how this protein relates to other “schizophrenia-proteins” and what they have in common. If we can figure that out, then we can start to guess what the underlying causes of schizophrenia are and how we might be able to treat them.
My Typical Day
Lots of time in the lab playing with cells and proteins, with occasional writing, teaching etc
Spend most of the day doing work in the lab. At the moment this is mainly growing cultures of bacteria and trying to extract proteins from them. It can also involve doing biochemistry, growing cells and looking at them under the microscope or various other tests.
Normally also spend a couple of hours writing papers, presentation, funding requests etc. Sometimes also have lectures to go, teaching to do or other meetings.
Then home again in the evening to be ambushed by my daughter…
What I'd do with the prize money
I was going to say present my work at an international conference, but if you have a better idea then let me know!
The plan was going to be travel to a conference, probably like Joe the “Society of Neuroscience” meeting which I have been to once before and had 30,000 scientists attend it. Its a great opportunaty to meet scientists from around the world who have similar interests to you, and to build collaborations with them (i.e. working together to perform better experiments faster)
However, if you can think of a good way to spend the money to tell others about my work (maybe other scientists, possibly to schools – your call) then please do let me know (if I get lots of ideas perhaps we can put it to a vote – will see what happens!)
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Northener (Southern accent)
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Best achievement: Figuring out how three proteins which “cause” schizophrenia work together in the cell. Most fun: When I get to go to an international conference every couple of years. Good to meet other people with the same interests as me and just to travel.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not very often (the Head of Sixth Form fortunately found the bouncy castle that was suddenly occupying most of his office quite amusing, he even let us come in and play on it).
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Am listening to a lot of classic Oasis at the moment.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I love acting (even if I’m not that great at it). Am currently rehearsing for a part in an open-air version of the Easter story to be performed in the middle of Edinburgh (which attracted a crowd of 3000 when we did it last year).
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) Nice big house and garden for my daughter to run round in 2) A guarantee that all the experiments I will ever set up will actually work 3) The ability to time travel (just sounds like fun)
Tell us a joke.
Snow White took a survey of the dwarfs, 6 out of 7 said they weren’t Happy…