About Me

Contact: ret.mutant@gmail.com, also now on Twitter (http://twitter.com/clearsci)

I’m a singer, a dancer and a baker. I play video games and watch too much TV. On occasion I do some science too. I really enjoy sharing new discoveries with people, and helping to get everyone enthusiastic about life sciences.

I am currently in the 3rd year of a 4-year PhD in developmental biology; studying processes involved in making an animal from a fertilised egg. This involves doing three short projects and then choosing one to study further. The first project studied cells in the nose that can be used to treat paralysis. The second and third studied how cells organise themselves internally and how they are able to position themselves and move around, first working in yeast and then in flies. The second project, whcih combines biology and computer sciences, is now the focus of my PhD.

The name Ret Mutant is a comment on my own genes, hence it is an integral part of me and has been important in driving my scientific interest. RET is a gene and my copy is probably a little different to most peoples, this is the source of my interest in development.

ClearSci was my first foray into the blogsphere, the first step in my campaign to encourage better communication between “scientists” and everyone else. I want to help people feel more at ease with new discoveries and to make the most of their potential benefits. I have since played a significant role in the Cambridge University science magazine, BlueSci, as well as contributions to the Node and Wellcome Trust blogs. I have also participated in science communication events such as SpotOn London (SOLO). I also go and do talks aout science, most recently about aliens as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. I also now run a blog for Nature Education, Conference Cast, aimed at young researchers to help equip them for science conferences.

Before this my interests in biology have been a bit disordered and all over the place. I have always enjoyed reading about different fields and the latest discoveries, I also enjoy talking to people about new advances and about the work I am doing. But I find it more difficult to actually DO science, it is very soul destroying when things aren’t working (which is most of the time) and is obviously the centre of a lot of ethical debate.

It was only when I began my graduate studies and talked to some of my new friends that I realised I could put this together into a career. Since then my career plan has been described as being “like Brian Cox…but for biology”, “like David Attenborough, but smaller” (in terms of the subject matter) and “like Richard Dawkins, but less offensive.” Well, at least that’s the plan.

As a result of this, my blog has several aims. First, to give a first-hand account of working in a lab, the goals I work towards, the work that I actually do and the social aspects of life as a PhD. Second, to explain and clarify biological sciences in a way that everyone can understand. This currently involves “the Meanings of Life” (tMoL) posts, a plain English dictionary of biological words. Finally, to give the truth of new discoveries in simple terms, without all the exaggerations common in mainstream media, through the “Save our Science” (SOS) posts.

When I’m not staining cells pretty colours or writing about them, I can be found in my kitchen making cakes and drinking tea with my housemates. I read tons of fiction (Everything from Star Wars to Twilight), I play a lot of games (Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Portal) and sing and dance (Rock ‘n’ Roll, Salsa) a lot, neither particularly well.

I hope you enjoy ClearSci and that I am able to help you feel more comfortable with science. I hope you will recommend me to your friends. I am also open to suggestions, if there is a news story you think I should cover, or some aspect of biology you have always wanted explained please contact me (ret.mutant@gmail.com) and I will do my best. I am also keen to cover a wide range of subjects so am looking for academics that might want to write guest posts outlining the work that they are currently doing.