Test #SciComm: Featuring Liz from @liz.thescientist

Posted by Applied Biological Materials (abm) on June 10, 2022

We recognize science can seem difficult to young scientists, and we hope to raise awareness about people who make it fun and accessible to broader audiences through social media, #SciComm!


Today, we're featuring Liz from @liz.thescientist, a Phd student at the University of Oxford studying the innate immune response to virus infections😷. On her instagram channel she shares her life as a woman in science, everyday glimpses of her lab work and research, and does excellent walk-throughs of various useful lab techniques and skills that are commonly used in scientific research!👩‍🔬 She has a passion for science and science communication and her channel has a wealth of resources on grad life and careers in STEM - from the application process to interview tips, and more!

@liz.thescientist Portrait

Tell us a bit about yourself and what made you decide to pursue a career in research? How did you end up focusing on virology and immunology instead of other research topics like say cancer research?

I have always been interested in human health and disease and wanted a job with a positive social impact. During my undergraduate degree in molecular biology at the university of Sheffield, I found a passion for infectious disease and immunology. I decided to study this further in a Master of Research in biosciences at UCL, and chose a lab which studied and characterised influenza virus. My work here contributed to deciding which influenza strains to include in the seasonal vaccine💉. I found this work interesting and rewarding, and decided to pursue a DPhil in immunology. During my DPhil I have gained many transferrable skills, opening doors for career paths inside and beyond academia.

Tell us a little about what project(s) you are currently working on? What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?

My lab looks at the innate immune response to virus infection. This is the first line of defence, rapidly induced after sensing virus in the body. I study specific components of this innate defence, to determine how and when they work. 🤔

@liz.thescientist Portrait

Through your Instagram channel, @liz.thescientist, you share fun tidbits of biochemistry/cell biology, really useful tips/tricks for common lab techniques, and glimpses into how everyday practical lab work is like. Life as a researcher is so busy - tell us a little bit about why you decided it was still important to set aside time to share your lab life and do #SciComm activities?

I set up my Instagram account in lockdown and have continued posting since. I think it’s important to represent women in stem online. In addition, I wanted to set it up after I got into Oxford to do a DPhil. I almost didn’t apply, because I didn’t think I’d get in. My family encouraged me to, and then I got an interview and a place with a full scholarship.✨

I wanted to spread the word that you don’t have to be top of the class or super experienced to get DPhil/PhD positions, you just need motivation, determination and passion.💪

My platform, therefore, centred around encouraging anyone to pursue science – by showing what day-to-day life is like and sharing tips for interviews and applications. As my DPhil continued, my platform expanded to include lab hacks and experiments, to showcase the things you learn during a DPhil.

My ultimate aim is to encourage people from all backgrounds to think about a career in science research, if I can do it – you can to!

A while ago you posted on your Instagram channel: "Scientists develop an extensive relationship with failure. I'm still on the road to accepting that little failures like this don't matter, as I can't feel down every time this happens. It will happen a lot!" Failures are a part of research life - how do you re-motivate yourself to try again? Any suggestions for other scientists who might be in this situation?

A big part of science research is learning how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again after a failure.

Thinking about the big picture always helps with this. Re-consolidate your ultimate aims: why are you doing this experiment? Why are you doing this project? Why are you doing this degree? Remind yourself of your ‘whys’, and remind yourself of your successes too.🤗

@liz.thescientist Portrait


What's your favorite and least favorite lab technique?

Favourite: plaque assay. Least favourite: FACS (only because the staining is complex, the actual end result is cool).

What's the most fascinating virus that you've studied?

The one I’ve studied most in-detail is influenza, and I find it really fascinating due to the fact there are many, many circulating strains.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’d love to do a safari in Botswana. I’d also love to see the northern lights in Iceland.

After a long day of work, would you rather cook or order in? What's your favorite dish to cook/order?

I normally meal-prep at the weekend, and then eat these meals throughout the week! I love Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti alla norma.

@liz.thescientist Illustration

Thank you, Liz, for another great #SciComm Interview! You can follow Liz on her instagram channel @liz.thescientist. If you'd like to be featured, message us on our instagram channel, @abm_good!

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