Favourite Thing: My favourite thing to do in science is to find a question that no one has ever asked, and ask it! Science involves a lot of hard work, but that work is towards a goal of making new knowledge. When I’m done, hopefully humanity knows something that it didn’t know before, and I think that’s awesome.
J. Percy Page High School, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (graduated 1997).
University of Alberta, on and off graduating in 2005, studying computer science and finally psychology. M.Sc. in Psychology from the U of A in 2007; Ph.D. in Biology from the Université du Québec à Montréal, 2011.
Postdoctoral research associate, University of New South Wales in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
Me and my work
I study questions about viruses, like how they evolve and why they do weird things to their hosts like turn them into ‘zombies’ (not the undead, but how they control the host against their will).
I’m an evolutionary biologist, so I ask a lot of ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. Why do viruses mutate so fast? How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and can we fix it before we get into real trouble? Viruses also do some strange things to the hosts that they infect, like make them really aggressive or turn them into zombies, and I’m interested in learning more about why that happens.
I’m a theoretical biologist, so I use reasoning, mathematics, and computers as my tools to study these questions.
Strangely, though I work on viruses and bacteria now, my background is in the study of animal behaviour; so, if you look on my CV, you’ll see that my title my studies were actually in a field called ‘behavioural ecology’. Behavioural ecology is the study of how evolution and ecology (the relationships between animals and their environment) have shaped animal behaviour.
My Typical Day
I read journal articles, do math, write computer programs and simulations, do statistics on data, and write papers.
Honestly, if you looked in on me at any given moment, it would look pretty boring; mostly, you’d see me staring intently at a computer screen, typing in short bursts or reading in complete silence.
What I'd do with the money
I would write and release a game for the iPhone/iPad that helped kids (and adults!) understand antibiotic resistance, why it’s a problem, and what we can do to help.
I’m a reasonably competent programmer and I’ve actually written apps for iOS previously; I would use the money to pay for high quality art and music for the game and for other costs associated with writing and releasing an app.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
(An) inquisitive, cheerful geek.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A computer programmer, actually.
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Embarrassingly, yes. I was actually expelled from my first high school!