Michaela Livingstone

From wednesday I'll be at GLASTONBURY! Through the magic of technology I will still be able to answer your questions, but really sorry to be missing the live chats :(

Favourite Thing: Having those little eureka moments when you put together all the bits of experimental data and finally realise what the big picture is.



1998-2004 – Harlaw Academy, Aberdeen


2004-present – University of Sheffield, BSc Genetics (’04-’07), PhD (07-present)

Work History:

Aberdeen Airport, Barratts Shoes, B&Q, Kier Sheffield – all summer jobs at various times.


University of Sheffield – Wilson group.

Current Job:

PhD Student.

Me and my work

Hey, I’m Michaela, I’m a 23 year old PhD student at the University of Sheffield, trying to work out how genes get switched on and off.

Hey! My name is Michaela, I’m 23 year old PhD Student in the University of Sheffield’s department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, where I also did my Bachelor of Science degree in Genetics.I work in a lab doing research to try and figure out how genes get switched on and off in the human body. Genes are the blueprint for proteins which carry out loads of functions in the body, like enzymes that digest your food, heamoglobin that carries oxygen around the body and structural things like collagen that supports your skin! So proteins are very important to make sure your body works. Each protein is encoded by a gene, and when that gene is switched on it is first copied in to a message. This happens in the central hub of the cell – the nucleus. Unfortunately proteins are made in the gooey bit outside the nucleus – the cytoplasm, so the gene’s message needs to get out of the nucleus before it can be copied in to a protein. This process of getting out of the nucleus is called export, and is what I work on.

My Typical Day

I start work at 9:30am every day, or earlier if need be, then work until I’m done, with music and coffee included wherever possible :)

I start work at 9:30 every day and work for however long I need to, though I usually miss out having too many breaks, or take too long for lunch so that I can finish around 5 or 6pm. I do love going for a coffee and a natter with my friends whenever I can though.

The first thing I usually do is get out my iPod and choose something to listen to, can’t work without music! Next, to the freezer to get out any reagents I need and let them thaw, or prepare anything I might need. I then get to work. The nature of my work means that most of the time I can be doing a few things at once – while one thing is left incubating, I can get on with something else.

I’m also involved with a science communication group that organises events and such like, so sometimes I need to make time to nip out to meetings or prepare publicity materials.

When I get home, it’s time to kick back and relax with a favourite TV program and a cup of tea, watch a movie or hang out with my friends, which a lot of the time involves watching movies or playing games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero!

What I'd do with the money

I’d donate the money to the science communication group I’m involved with so they can help get more people interested and excited about science!

I’m part of a science communication group at my university called Science Brainwaves. We try to get science out to as many people as possible, young and old! One of our favourite things to do is “science busking”, where you take some quick science demos to the streets and bars to give little demonstrations to people to answer some simple, but important questions about all sorts of things – like what is the science behind sound and music? This can then lead on to talking about what we do ourselves. We unfortunately don’t have our own kit and have to borrow one, so it’d be great to be able to buy one. The other thing we like doing is getting really great and enthusiastic people in to talk about their science, so the money would be able to cover their travel costs, etc. Boring business, but it’s great to be able to get people excited about science, so it’s important! What do you think?

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Lively, open-minded and curious.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I have a very eclectic taste in music, metal to electronica, so Massive Attack and Machine Head are my favourite bands, but right now I’m listening to a lot of the bands on the Glastonbury line-up to get revved up for that :)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Travelled 1900 miles by bus, train and plane to the south of Spain with a couple friends to go to a festival on a beach, and then road-tripped to Valencia to spend a few days soaking up the sun and general fun frolics and good banter, it was a bit of an advernture, but amazing!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I’d love to have my own zoo full of animals! I’d like to be sent every new smart phone to play around with and to have a really interesting job to go in to when I finish my PhD.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A geneticist and work out what makes us ‘us’.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not massively, only really for talking too much.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

For me, the best thing was working really hard on trying to get an experiment, showing a couple proteins that I was interested in could interact with each other in a cell, to work. Most good results I get are great though.

Tell us a joke.

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the world together.