PhD Student Researcher – Division of Cancer Sciences
About my research
Different tissues in the body have different mechanical properties. For example, brain and breast tissue is very soft, whereas bone tissue is very stiff.
Cells within those tissues can sense how stiff their environment is, and this stiffness influences cellular behaviours such as what job the cell performs in the tissue, when the cell divides, and whether the cell should survive or die.
In diseases such as cancer, the stiffness of a cell’s environment often changes, thus changing the behaviour of the cell and promoting disease development.
My research focuses on how normal breast cells sense the stiffness of their environment, so we can find out how to prevent cells feeling the increase in environmental stiffness, which is often observed in the early stages of breast cancer development and progression.
Public engagement highlights
Myself and my lab regularly participate in the University’s science outreach events including the Body Experience, Science Spectacular and the Community Festival with our stand ‘Hello From The Udder Side – The Exciting Biology of the Mammary Gland’.
Featuring our famous life-size wooden cow (which can be milked!) we aim to have researchers engage with people of all ages to talk about breast biology.
I am also currently in my second year as a Widening Participation Fellow at the University, in which I run workshops for secondary schools in Greater Manchester.
My favourite workshop I’ve designed takes the form of a murder mystery, where classes learn about DNA biology in order to solve escape room-style puzzles.
My work in this role aims to encourage children from backgrounds under-represented in higher education to consider studying science at university.
Best public engagement advice
Never wear a lab coat for public engagement which doesn’t require one.
If you formed your opinion of academic scientists based on how they’re represented in films, you might be forgiven for thinking all scientists wear dirty white lab coats and lock themselves in dark laboratories for hours on end, intent on creating scary monsters and viruses.
Given that this isn’t actually the case, I think it’s important that scientists doing public engagement look and sound as accessible and approachable as possible, allowing scientists and the general public to find common ground and engage in intellectual discussions, inspiring awareness, discussion and debate surrounding the University’s research within the wider community.