I am a PDRA in AstrobiologyOU looking at finding evidence of potential life on icy moons using volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
My background is one of variation! I started my career in Osteopathic Medicine which has involved treating patients in both private clinics and the NHS, as well as working with a sporting teams to provide medical care, and teaching a sports massage and rehabilitation diploma. During this time, I decided to expand my knowledge even further (because obviously I didn’t have enough to do already!) by enrolling on a part time research MSc degree.
I completed my MSc at Cranfield University in Medical Diagnostics and then moved to the Open University (OU) to complete my PhD ‘Use of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Profiling in Investigating Diseases of the Gut and Diet Related Conditions’. This is where my introduction to VOCs blossomed, and I developed skills in thermal desorption (TD), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and selective ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) and it has been an ongoing theme ever since. I was involved with ‘The Brilliant Club’ – teaching school age students about my research – which opened my eyes to encouraging under-represented groups in schools to be confident in applying to highly-selective universities. Standing on a soapbox was also required – by being in the first year group to present at Milton Keynes’ public outreach platform ‘Soapbox Science’ event.
Two further PDRA roles at the OU lead me into VOC analysis using optical fibre technology, 3D printing diagnostic platforms, and organic compound and surface variation analysis using reflectance UV-spectrophotometry. I also teach as an associate lecturer for the OU on their SK299 module – human biology.
The amazing thing about VOC analysis and the OU is that it has allowed me to cross between different university faculties and groups, and has encouraged local and international collaboration in the UK (Nottingham University, Cranfield University, University of the West of England, Addenbrookes Hospital, Guy’s Hospital Kings College London, Tharos Ltd) and Japan (The University of Kitakyushu), and has now given me the opportunity to use my current expertise to further expand my knowledge into the environment. Now, as I return from maternity leave, I’m really looking forward to the new challenge!