Allerton Grange School, Leeds 1991-1995 University of Liverpool 1995-2002, University of Edinburgh 2010-2013, University of Liverpool 2014-present
BSc Biochemistry, BVSc Veterinary Science, MSc International Animal Health, MRes Clinical Sciences
Small animal vet in practice in the North West over the years and as a researcher in Ethiopia for 9 months
PhD student and small animal clinician
University of Liverpool
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love travelling and working with scientists from different backgrounds to tackle diseases in many parts of the world.
I’m a vet who is interested in finding out how diseases can spread between pets, farm animals, wild animals and humans
I live on the Wirral, near Liverpool and not far from the sea. I was born in Colombia, South America, (my Mum is Colombian and my Dad is British) and came to the UK when I was 9 years old.
I have a cheeky little black cat called Paikea, who is quite old, but nobody has told her, so she still plays like a kitten.
I love the ocean and enjoy swimming, surfing and scuba diving (even if the water is really cold!). I love to travel abroad, and recently visited Finland, way up into the Arctic Circle (even further North than where Santa lives!) to spend time on a reindeer farm. It was amazing!
Something else I really love is cooking, especially food from different parts of the world. Whenever I travel abroad, I like to try new dishes and learn recipes that I can cook back home. I love to grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables in the garden too. I’ve started running to get fitter and ran a 10K race earlier this year. I’m now training for a half-marathon, and who knows, maybe I’ll run a full marathon one day!
Testing: My work involves looking at a parasite of dogs that can spread to sheep, cows, horses and even people!
There are different parts to my life as a scientist:
My main work is using different ways to sample and test for a tiny tapeworm that lives in the intestines of dogs, called Echinococcus, to investigate where in the UK we have this parasite. The reason this work is important is that this parasite can also spread to other species, including us humans, and can cause a pretty nasty disease called Hydatid Disease.
At the moment we don’t really know where in the UK this parasite can be found, so my research looks at taking poo samples from dogs (yuk!) around the country, and samples of raw meat from abattoirs (more yuk!) to test for the parasite. I can then use the test results to draw maps of where the parasite is found, and look for clues as to how it spreads. When the work is complete and I finish my PhD, I hope I can produce really useful information to help us stop the parasite from spreading.
I also still work as a regular vet at the veterinary practice here at Liverpool University, taking care of cats, dogs and small furry creatures. This work also involves teaching and training the students on their course to become the vets of the future!
One important difference between these two areas of work, is that the clinic work usually involves looking at disease in a single animal, and the PhD research involves looking at disease in large populations of animals – two different skills in science!
My Typical Day
A mish-mash of lab work, writing, teaching and sometimes surgery!
If I am doing research work, a typical day might be preparing sampling kits to send to dog owners for them to collect a bit of poo to send back to me in the lab. When I have collected enough samples, my days will be spent busy in the lab looking for parasites under the microscope, or testing the samples for evidence of parasite DNA.
If I am doing a day of clinical work, a typical day would be spent operating in the surgical theatre in the morning, and seeing clients and their pets during consultations in the afternoon. Because I work in a teaching hospital, there is also time with the students giving classes on different vet topics, for example, how to diagnose a skin infection and how to choose the right treatment for it.
At the end of the working day, I’ll meet with friends or head home, go for a run in the park near my house, then cook up something yummy for tea!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would donate the money to Mission Rabies, to help their scientists in India to buy educational materials and visit schools to teach children about what they do, about rabies and how to understand dogs better so they can avoid dog bites and reduce the risk of rabies.
Mission Rabies is a charity that works in Africa and Asia to vaccinate as many dogs as possible to stop the spread of rabies, a terrible disease that kills tens of thousands of people, mainly children each year. It’s very important that communities understand how and why the Mission Rabies do the work they do to stop rabies spreading.
Part of their work involves visiting schools to teach children about rabies and understand how to prevent dog bites that spread this terrible disease. The scientist team use lessons and activities including drawing, props, video, acting and even a pedal-powered cinema to show cartoons and films about preventing rabies. The money would help the team to reach more schools to teach children about their work.
You can look up more information about them here: http://www.missionrabies.com/education/
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, Dedicated, Adventurous
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Working in Ethiopia with a big team of scientists to explore diseases in chickens!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Growing up in Colombia, surrounded by amazing wildlife gave me an interest in nature and how it all works!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Once I didn’t hand my homework in on time.. I had to stay behind after school to finish it :(
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I guess I would be a chef.. Still kind of a scientist, but you get to eat your experiments
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Oh gosh, I have so many favourites! At the moment, I am listening to Ladyhawke and Empire of the Sun
What's your favourite food?
Mashed potato! It rocks!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Scuba diving with a tiger shark in Costa Rica was amazing fun!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1.To work in many different countries as a vet researcher 2.Be able to hold my breath underwater for an hour 3.To be the best and most fun Auntie ever to my little nephew
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a cheese that doesn’t belong to you..? Nacho cheese..!