Andrew Swale

Thanks for all the votes guys - hope you are happy with your winner :)

Favourite Thing: Carrying out my lab work and experiments



Liverpool BlueCoat School (1997-2004). University of Liverpool (2004-2007 & 2009-present)


GCSEs (3A*, 7A, 2B, 1C). A-levels (BBC). AS-levels (C). BSc Genetics (1st-class). PhD Pharmacology

Work History:

W H Smith. Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Royal Liverpool University Hospital

Current Job:

PhD student


Royal Liverpool University Hospital

Me and my work

My work involves blood and faeces of patients suffering from severe diarrhoea due to infection with the hospital superbug C. Diff

‘Superbug’ refers to pathogens (e.g. bacteria) that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Patients infected with the hospital superbug Clostridium difficile (C. Diff) develop severe diarrhoea, with some people having to go the toilet 20 times in one day! This obviously isn’t much fun for these people!

My work involves looking at blood and faeces from these people with C. Diff and comparing it to people who don’t have the disease to see if we can identify any differences. For example,  I try to identify genetic differences by extracting DNA from our patients’ blood and using the DNA in my experiments.

Any findings may then potentially help in the treatment/management of the disease

My Typical Day

No two days are the same, but they always involve lots of lab work and lots of chocolate (although not at the same time!)

Every day is different – that’s one good thing about it; some days will be mad busy with experiments and others are more relaxed planning and writing up what I’ve done – it’s a nice mix

I usually start the day by checking emails and replying to any important ones – usually from my boss!

I usually then head to lab and begin my experiment for that day – my most recent lab work involves measuring patient antibody levels to the toxin which causes the disease I work on (C. Diff). We would assume that a patient with severe disease will have less antibodies compared to a patient with milder disease.

This experiment takes around 7 hours but involves a lot of gaps – so I’d prepare my samples and add them into my ‘plates’ and then I have to leave them for 2 hours. Then I come back and add my next reagent and this incubates for 1 hour and so on. I usually use these gaps to plan other lab work, write up what I have done that day and have lunch!

I obtain my results for the day’s experiment late afternoon ~3-4pm (fingers crossed it works!). Based on the results I can then plan the next day’s work

Lab work generates results and it’s these results that have enabled me to travel to Munich, Germany and New York, USA to present my work at international conferences.

What I'd do with the money

I would give the money to the Liverpool World Museum to help them engage their younger visitors with science

The Liverpool World Museum first opened in 1853 and has been a major tourist attraction in the city ever since – growing up in Liverpool I visited many times. They already have a good focus on science with various workshops having taken place as well as numerous exhibitions, one of which included a cardboard cut-out of my boss! I would donate the prize to the World Museum in order for them to further engage their young visitors with science


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Hardworking, honest and sociable

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I love music – hard to choose between Lana Del Rey and Bloc Party

What's your favourite food?

Mexican (Burritos, Fajitas, Enchiladas, Tacos……….)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I appeared on the Channel 4 gameshow ‘Countdown’ in 2008

What did you want to be after you left school?

I didn’t really know – I chose to do Genetics at University because I enjoyed that section of Biology A-level

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

One or two detentions but nothing serious – I was a prefect so had to set a good example!

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

I have won prizes for my work at two separate conferences

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I wouldn’t say one particular person inspired me, I just enjoyed it at school and the fact I was good at it also helped!

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

An accountant – I’ve always been good with numbers

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

1. To win the lottery 2. To be able to control the weather 3. To have a superpower (e.g. invisibility)

Tell us a joke.

Where do vampires go fishing? In the blood stream!

Other stuff

Work photos:

My desk: This is where all the brain action takes place myimage6

DNA extraction from blood: Laurence is extracting DNA from our patient’s blood – this pictures illustrates him adding the specific buffer to the main blood tubes myimage2

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR): Lewis is setting up a PCR reaction – this enables us to look at specific markers within our patients’ DNA myimage10

Isolating serum and plasma from blood: I look at markers within serum and plasma (components of our blood) – to isolate these I use a centrifuge which spins them at very high speeds allowing the serum and plasma (yellow liquid) to separate from the other parts of our blood myimage7

Storage of samples: We don’t always use our samples straight away therefore we need to store them in freezers – lots of research means lots of samples and lots of freezers myimage4

Prepping experiments: Once I have my isolated serum I need to add it to my ‘plates’ – this involves lots of pipetting and lots of tubes! myimage8

Lab bench: Different types of work are carried out on different benches to prevent contamination – here is an example of a typical lab bench (this one is used for work involving protein) myimage5

Agar plates: Hayley is seen here making something you may be familiar with; agar plates! And the lab wouldn’t be complete without the trusty bunsen burner myimage9

Conferences: As a PhD student you get the opportunity to present your work at scientific conferences. Here you can see me explaining the poster detailing my research to other conference attendees myimage1 I was lucky enough to attend a conference in New York here I met James Watson, the Nobel prize-winning co-discoverer of the structure of DNA myimage3