University of Edinburgh Chancellor's Fellow
What makes you interested in your work?
Genomics is a field of science that moves rapidly and the techniques we use have changed hugely even in the last 5 years. My research focuses on how genes are expressed (switched on and off). When I was doing my PhD we measured gene expression one gene at a time, now we can measure the expression of all the genes in the genome at once. This makes being a scientist in this field really exciting! I am really interested in how we can use information about which genes are switched on and off and when in livestock to inform and improve breeding, health and welfare. I also really like sheep and goats and I’m working on expanding my knowledge of farming and agriculture, as it really helps to be passionate about your research subject.
At what point did you begin to see yourself as a scientist?
I started to see myself as a scientist when I did my research dissertation in the final year of my undergraduate degree. I spent a summer using radio-tracking equipment to record the foraging patterns of bats in a conifer plantation, and I think collecting data and analysing it made me feel like I was a scientist.
How did you end up in your line of work?
I have always loved animals and I grew up with horses. I did Animal Biology at university and then during my Masters degree I took some classes in genomics. I decided to pursue a genomics-focused PhD and then was offered a postdoctoral position at the Royal Veterinary College, working on a parasite that affects chickens. This position gave me the opportunity to use genomics to help inform and improve animal health. After a few years in London I was lucky enough to be offered a position at the Roslin Institute, a world-leading institute in livestock genomics, this time to build an atlas of gene expression for sheep. Recently I was very fortunate to be awarded a Chancellor's Fellowship to continue this work and I now lead a research group focusing on ruminant functional genomics
What was your first ever job?
My first job was at a local riding school, I used to do yard work in exchange for rides.
The Roslin Institute is a world leader in livestock genomics. I feel very privileged to work here and am hugely grateful for the opportunities provided to me by the institute. As an early career scientist these opportunities were hugely useful and have shaped my career.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to reach your position?
I lost my mother the year I finished my PhD and moved to London to start my first postdoctoral position. That was a huge hurdle but I overcame it, and I know she'd be very proud of what I've accomplished.
What is the most important skill to have in science?
I've learned recently that my most important skill in science is my ability to write quickly and make complex ideas seem quite simple. This skill has been invaluable to me since I began applying for grant funding.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing science?
I love horses and when I'm not doing science I spend most of my time riding and with my horse Jake.