I went to Burgess Hill School for Girls to study my GCSE’s and A Levels – an all girls school might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but I loved it, and not having boys as a distraction certainly helped my grades! In 1997 I then went to Exeter University to do a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, then in 2000 went to Cardiff Metropolitan University to do a Masters degree in the same subject. I then went to Brunel University in West London to do a PhD in Neuromuscular Physiology, which I completed in 2005.
I have a BSc, MSc, PhD and also a PGCHE (a qualification for teaching in higher education)
I worked at Brunel University as a lecturer from 2005-2009, and I have worked at The University of Brighton since 2009 as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology. The exciting news is that I have just taken up the position as Head of Physiology at The English Institute of Sport, where I will be in charge of the physiological support of all the Olympic athletes in preparation for the Rio Games. I start there in August.
I am a lecturer in sport and exercise physiology. This involves teaching students who study sports science, and also doing research in this field.
I studied sport and exercise science at University and then went on to do a PhD (3 more years of studying at University!) in exercise neurophysiology – that looks at how the brain and the central nervous system works when we exercise. In the lab I use a technique called magnetic brain stimulation to study how the brain sends signals to our muscles to make them contract so that we can move and do exercise. When we get tired after doing a lot of physical activity, the brain isn’t so good at sending signals to our muscles because it too has become tired, and that’s why moving around feels a bit harder when we are worn out!
In my free time, as well as being a mum to my gorgeous 18 month old son, I love to do endurance sports, and have run several marathons, and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.
My Typical Day:
Drop my son at nursery, coffee, emails, in the lab zapping people’s brains, lunch, meet with students, work on writing up my experiments for publication, home for my son’s bath-time and bed!
The great thing about working as a scientist is that no two days are ever the same! That’s what I love about my job. There are always lots of different experiments going on in the laboratory, and I supervise the students who are conducting them. These experiments all involve looking at how the brain and the nervous system cope with the human body being pushed towards its limits. So some of my day is always spent in the lab working with my team. Many of our experiments utilise a special room where we can accurately set the temperature to be very hold, or extremely cold, or have less oxygen, like we experience when we are at high altitude.
There are less exciting bits to my day like answering emails and having meetings but I like the fact I am nearly always interacting with other people. As a scientist working with humans (as opposed to animals or looking at cells in a petri dish) I spend most of my days interacting with other people, whether they are participants in our experiments, athletes who have come to test their fitness, or working with my students. I also like the fact that I learn something new every day! Sometimes I learn by reading other peoples work, sometimes my students will tell me something they have found out in their work that I didn’t know before.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I’d like to run a workshop where students from local schools can come into the laboratory and find out how we measure the body’s responses to extreme environments, like very hot or very cold conditions.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, smiley, curious.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I think I got in the most trouble at school for missing out on my studies because I was playing too much sport!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
I love all food! But my favourite is probably a good burger and chips (think Hard Rock Cafe style!)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
(1) To be a great role model for my son (2) to always have a good work – life balance (3) to always choose to do things that make me, and others happy
Tell us a joke.
Why did the baker have brown hands?……….because he ‘kneaded’ a poo ;o)