Hi I’m Elly!
I’m a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. I study neuroscience and DNA damage. I’m from Newcastle and outside of the lab I enjoy climbing, martial arts and bake a lot of cakes!
My pronouns are:
I’m a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh.
I am investigating how damage to your DNA is linked to problems with your memory as you get older. If we can work out how and why your DNA gets damaged, then we can try to repair it and decrease old age-related memory problems.
When you get older, you can’t remember things as easily as you used to and we’re looking at one of the reasons this might be, so that we can reverse it.
Think of the inside of your cells like a little factory, with important cargo being made in one part of the cell, picked up, transported and dropped off to a different part where they are needed.
I work on one of the molecules which transports things around inside your cells. We don’t know exactly what my molecule is moving about, but we know that when it isn’t delivered, the DNA inside your cells can become damaged. If this happens in your brain cells, it can cause you to forget things. So, we are trying to work out what this delivery is so that we can stop the DNA being damaged and stop your memory getting worse as you get older.
My Typical Day:
I wake up and have to have coffee before I can do anything else! I learn Spanish on the bus into work and arrive for 10am. The first thing I do in the lab is check that the brain cells that I’m growing are still alive, if they are, I feed them. Then I have lunch with my friends, and I spend the afternoon running experiments. I go home at 6pm.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would like to make an interactive game (either a website or an app) where students can explore a cartoon version of the inside of different types of cells.
There could be two types of game play:
“Calm mode” where you start with a dying cell and you have to try and fix it by working out what jobs different molecules have around inside of the cell and where they all need to be delivered to save the cell. This would be the most educational section as you could click on different parts of the cell for more information.
And then a “Fast Mode” where students have to deliver all the molecules to the right parts of the cell as quickly as they can. If they miss something or are too slow, then the DNA starts to break, and they have to try and repair it. If they can’t repair it then the cell dies. The aim is to keep the cell alive as long as you can.
The students could earn extra lives by passing a quick memory test
I did my GCSEs in 2014 and these helped me work out which subjects I liked and wanted to do for A-levels. I took biology, chemistry and psychology at A-level and the combination of all of them together taught me that I was really interested in the brain.
I studied Neuroscience at Cardiff University for my undergraduate degree and I studied Alzheimer’s Disease. Then I moved to Edinburgh for my Masters degree where I researched growing stem cells directly into neurons.
I loved Edinburgh, so stayed here when the Masters finished and have just started my PhD.
GCSEs in 2014
A-levels (Biology, Chemistry, Psychology) in 2016
BSc Neuroscience, from Cardiff University in 2020
MScR Integrative Neuroscience, from the University of Edinburgh in 2022
Started the PhD in September 2022
Whilst I was still at school, I used to babysit on weekends. Then I used to make a bit of extra money whilst I was at university baking cakes for birthdays and other special occasions.
Then halfway through my undergraduate degree, I moved to Sweden and worked as a research assistant for a year at Lund University, then moved back to Cardiff in finish my degree.
During the pandemic I worked at a COVID Testing Centre and then when the schools reopened, as a science technician at a secondary school disposing of dangerous chemicals and designing experiments for the kids
Centre of Genomics and Experimental Medicine, University of Edinburgh
What did you want to be after you left school?
I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but found I much preferred the lab to a hospital
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’d want to be a palaeontologist or a baker
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Twenty One Pilots
What's your favourite food?
Tell us a joke.
Why can't you trust an atom? They make everything up!