Well done Keith !
Favourite Thing: Tinkering, and eventually making things work.
Manchester University (2005-2009, 2009-2010, 2010- )Wardle High School and Sixth Form (1998-2003,2003-2005)
MRes, BSc, 4 A levels, 1 AS level and 10 GCSEs
Student Demonstrator and Student Ambassador at Manchester University
University of Manchester
Me and my work
Steak and kidney pudding, without the steak or the pudding.
I work on the kidneys, which is a really hard working organ. Normally your kidneys are amazing: they filter your blood far better than any machine can.
Diabetes is a really big problem in the UK, people with diabetes end up with too much sugar in their blood and they get really poorly. All that sugar is really bad for the kidneys. The poor kidneys, they have to work loads harder to stop all that extra sugar going down the toilet!
The disease is called Diabetic Nephropathy: you say it Di-a-bet-ic Nef-rop-athy – it took me ages to be able to say it properly
My work is based on rats with poorly kidneys. I look after them, collect urine samples and take their blood pressure using a little inflatable balloon that goes on the tail, it’s the same method used on us – but we don’t have a tail so it’s done on the arm instead. My rats are friendly and rather cheeky – they’ll pinch food off me!
When the rats get really poorly they go to sleep and I get the kidneys. I sort the kidneys out, cut them into thin slices and stain them with different dyes so I can see what the inside of the kidney looks like. I’m hoping my work might lead to drugs that can help diabetic people with poorly kidneys to get better – otherwise they might need to borrow a kidney off someone else.
This project means even more to me as my cat ‘Flossy’ died of the same disease.
My Typical Day
Getting wee’d on by rats and staining really thin slices of kidney bright colours – but mostly pink
I travel in to Uni on the train and do something creative – it’s my down time so I usually knit. Sometimes I check my emails.
I’m in the lab a lot,
I have microscope slides with kidney on them that get washed and then stained all different colours. With other slides I might be looking for something really small – so I have to use antibodies to find it, those slides end up brown which is a bit of a boring colour!
Antibodies are like little clothes pegs that can only peg certain things to the washing line, so you know what you’ve found if it clips on! They are really really special clothes pegs and usually only peg to one thing out of the MILLIONS in my kidney slices.
If I need some urine samples I put my rats in specially made cages that collect the samples – I always give my rats a treat when they have been to the toilet. The treat food is mash, it looks like squishy breakfast cereal but they really like it and will take it out of my hand.
Email and filling are the less fun aspects of my day.
I like bright colours – and I’m easy to spot in a crowd, unless you’re little like me too:
What I'd do with the money
Develop the ‘diabetes’ game for schools
As part of a workshop me and some friends came up with the insulin game. It needs making better, and I think it’d be more fun using the ‘parachute’ I remember from school.
It’s a very interactive way to understand the difference between the types of diabetes. I would need to develop info packs/ leaflets too.
Thsis question got me thinking – I wonder if I could make a ‘model kidney’ that works on similar principles as a real kidney. Like the balloons in a bell jar I remember at school that were supposed to be a pair of lungs…
I’ve given a detailed description of the game here: https://hormonej13.imascientist.org.uk/2013/06/20/what-is-the-diabetes-game/
It will be improved as it’s played though!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Penguins, Purple and (rock) Music
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Machine Head and Metallica
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Scientist or Nurse
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
I was always late…
What was your favourite subject at school?
Biology or Chemistry
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Taken laughing gas – as part of a demonstration in a practical class.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Teachers at high school – though they wanted me to do physics
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
When I grow up I want to be a minion
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Get rid of inequality, an admin fairy, peace
Tell us a joke.
What is brown and sticky? A twig