Photo:

Iain Moal

Well, looks like I've been evicted. Its been great. Thanks for all the thought-provolking questions.

Favourite Thing: Being the first person to do something.

My CV

School:

Burnham Grammar School until 1999 and then Henley College until 2001, then I took a gap year and went to South America

University:

Nottingham University 2003-2007, where I studied Computational Chemistry

Work History:

I’ve done lots of random jobs, in a kitchen, a toothpaste factory, a prison, a hospital, the Grand Prix, a petrol station…

Employer:

London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK

Current Job:

Postgraduate Research Student

Me and my work

I’m a computational biologist. With the help of clever chemistry, physics and maths, I use supercomputers to solve biological problems.

When I was seven, I managed to get hold of a screwdriver and take the washing machine apart. My mum went mental! I didn’t know how it worked, which pieces went where, and I couldn’t put it back together again. When I finally got it back together, I had a vague idea about how it worked. I’m still trying to figure out how things work by getting different pieces in the right place, but instead of assembling parts of a washing machine, I assemble the molecules that people are made of into the tiny machines which we all have inside us, and which keep us working normally.

For a long time now, scientists have known the molecules that life is made of, but they don’t know exactly how they interact with one another, and fit together to make stuff happen. Somehow, they form machines which allow us to digest food, move, grow, heal ourselves, sense the outside world and stop us getting diseases. I’ve written a computer program which can help us answer some of these questions. Basically, you can give it two molecules, and it will try and fit them together and see if they can form a stable piece of machinery, and show you what that machinery looks like.

My Typical Day

Go to the labs, read some papers, do some computer programming or analysis and talk with other scientists.

It varies from day to day.  Usually I get the train to central London where I work, grab a coffee and check my emails.  Sometime I spend all day programming, other days I spend reading about other peoples research and thinking about new ideas and directions.  I always go to lunch with other scientists and talk about our research.  Recently I went to a conference in Milan, and was there when they won the Champions League, which was nice!

The most stressful days, when I’m really busy, are when I take part in a ‘competition’ called CAPRI that happens every few months.

What I'd do with the money

I want to tell school children about science and about the amazing things that can be discovered when thinking in a scientific way. I would like to create a pack for schools, which explains some of the most amazing discoveries in molecular biology, and show how they can help people today and in the future.

Most people don’t really think about how life works, they just go about their day to day business without thinking about it. I want to expose children to material which will get them thinking, like this video, which shows some of our molecular machinery in action: The Inner Life of a Cell

When I see things like that video, it feels like I’m looking into an alien world that is very different from the world I see day to day. I believe that, just by looking at things like this, people will start asking questions about how the body achieves the things which they take for granted. Then they will want to know how the body is able to touch, see and hear, and how it protects us from disease, or repairs itself when injured.

There will be many problems in the future which we will need to overcome with scientific and technological solutions, like climate change, feeding the world, curing diseases and supplying energy.  I think that if people can get interested in science from a young age, the world would be better prepared to tackle these problems and build a better future.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, talkative, happy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Far too many, but I’m really liking Muse and Opeth right now.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

White water rafting in the Amazon jungle

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1) Make a discovery which will make a big impact on the lives of others. 2) Help others see the natural world in with the eye of a scientist: throw away superstitions and realise the true awesomeness of reality. 3) Live a happy life and help others around me do the same.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist!!

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Sometimes…

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I found a way of using artificial intelligence to look at how molecules vibrate and figure out how they change shape when then assemble themselves into molecular machines. I can even do this with protein molecules that have thousands of atoms!

Tell us a joke.

Whats brown and sticky? … A stick.