PhD student has testing time in fight against Covid

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Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which this year has the theme of women scientists at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. Jamie Thompson is a PhD student at the Biodiscovery Institute and she recently interrupted her PhD to help set up and run the University of Nottingham’s Asymptomatic Covid Testing Service.

Jamie says: “I am originally from New Zealand, but grew up mostly in the USA and Spain (parents moved around a lot!). I completed a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, during which I undertook an industrial placement year at working for a pharmaceutical company in Vienna, Austria. I was unsure whether to continue in research, and for a brief time was planning on taking some time out to teach skiing, but then a PhD project which I loved the sound of opened up at the University of Nottingham. I started here in May 2017 on the EPSRC Programme in Next Generation Biomaterials Discovery, jointly supervised by Prof Cathy Merry and Professor Morgan Alexander. My project focuses on combining human pluripotent stem cells and biomaterials to create 3D models to study human development and disease, reducing the number of animals used in research. I am particularly interested in how specific carbohydrates made by stem cells influence how the cells develop and grow in a human embryo.

 

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I took an interruption to my PhD to help set up the COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Service, which has been an incredible journey and learning curve! The university developed a unique saliva Covid test for people without symptoms and I worked with a great team in the labs to analyse the thousands of saliva samples we received from students. It was a huge challenge at times, but knowing we were helping to keep the university community safe was hugely satisfying and I am very proud to have been part of such a ground-breaking and important project.

I’m now concentrating on my PhD again which will finish this year, and I am currently looking at applying to work at some research institutes like the Francis Crick, and also scientific organisations like the NC3Rs.”

Professor Chris Denning, Director of the University of Nottingham Biodiscovery Institute (BDI) led the Asymptomatic Testing service, he added: “One of the greatest rewards of being Director of the largest research facility at the university is being able to provide opportunities to budding scientists and watch them flourish. I saw qualities in Jamie from an early on and knew that a small nudge would help her become a great leader, which is what she is now.

I’m so proud of Jamie and to the many others, more often than not women in science, who have also shown how readily they can achieve great things in a short time throughout the Institute – a huge thank you from me for…. Project Period (Kavita Raniga), the BDI Beady Eye (far more than just a newsletter; Hannah Jackson), the Early Career Research forum (Alice Cardall), Stay at Home Science and Science Role Models (Louisa Taylor, Michaela Griffin and others), Science techniques (Ilona Sica, Sara Cuevas Ocana), Parents in Science Society (Elisa Marelli).”

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