Science Questions from 10 year olds part 5 #IASUK

Question: whats the weirdest animal you have ever worked with

Unfortunately, I only work with humans. But some humans can be pretty weird.

Question: If you had to, would you go through with hurting an animal just to find out how the body works, or would you just leave it until it eventually falls to its death?

I would never hurt an animal if I could avoid it, thankfully my work only requires a blood test from my human volunteers. But there is more to this question than just that. The study of animals has helped us to understand ourselves and helped us to produce medicines. This is important and needs to continue. However, I think that all animals that are being studied must be treated very well, they must not suffer, and they must have the ability to run around and play. I certainly don’t think animals should be used by businesses to test their products (like make-up or hairspray) but I know that many humans would die if we stopped researching animals.

Fortunately, technology is advancing so that animal tests are becoming less and less necessary, instead of doing early “trials” in animals we can test new medicines against lab grown cells or simulate tests in a computer. This allows us to save many animals that in the past would have died to keep us healthy. I think that we need to continue to improve our technology so that we can absolutely minimise the number of animals that need to be studied and so that animals can lead the lives that they deserve, to be happy and free.

Question: how long will it take for all the resources in the world, such as coal to run out

Within your lifetime we will run out of energy. The question is what to do about it, now, while we still have a chance? We need to be really pushing towards renewable energy sources. If we stop using coal, gas, and oil (all the remnants of ancient life forms by the way) and replace it with energy generation from wind, wave, and solar we can power our civilization forever. The sun provides us with more energy than we can ever use and if we solidly invest in renewable energy now we won’t have a problem when we run out of oil, coal, and gas.

Question: how old were you when you started science

I started learning science in school, but I really liked airplanes and space rockets. So I build model rockets and launched them high into the sky to watch how force and flight work. I even made a shuttle like rocket which attached a rocket engine to an airplane like glider model! That was super fun, but if you are going to do it make sure there is an adult in the area, I burned myself on one of the rocket engines and I still have a scar.

As far as becoming a scientist, I did my first research project in 2010 which taught me that I love figuring out new knowledge and introduced me to the thrill of discovery!

Question: what got you into doing science?

I love computers, I have been using computers since I was about 6-7. At first I loved playing video games (I still do!), then I loved programming them, then building them, then making them talk to each other.

I worked as an IT administrator for many years (with a couple of years as a Video Game Tester) before returning to University to get my degree in Computer Science, I wanted to become a Games Programmer and Designer. But something interesting happened while I was at University, I learned that I love doing research. I got involved in a project that was helping people recover after brain damage and the act of creating new knowledge was so much fun that I figured that it would be a more fun job than making video games (it is, I have done both). When I graduated from University I started looking for a PhD (to become a scientist and researcher) and I looked at a number of different places. Oxford was at the top of my list because they were offering a program that allowed me to mix my love of computers, with my love of research, with my love of evolution (evolution is awesome). I could not believe my luck!

Now I spend my time using my computer to create new knowledge about evolution, best job in the world!

Question: what is the best thing you have discovered?

What I do is I look for mutations in humans that are beneficial to the human that has it. I have discovered a number of beneficial mutations (we are still trying to figure out what they do) but the best thing is that the method I have developed may turn out to be the most powerful method for detecting beneficial mutations yet built.

Question: What is the worst thing that has happened in your experiments?

Because I work with computers my stories aren’t as interesting as everyone elses. When my experiments go wrong I have to figure out why they went wrong and fix the program so it won’t make the same mistake.

The worst time was when I discovered a mistake after 3 months and had to redo it all :(

Question: do you harm any animals at you work

I don’t study animals, I study humans, and I do it with a computer. So no animals are harmed in my work.

The people that provided the DNA that I work on did have to collect blood from 1092 people around the world however, so some humans had to have a needle put into their arms to extract the blood, but that doesn’t hurt very much and only a little blood is needed :(

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