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Spotlight: Amanda Berg, PhD Student (Medical Sciences) at The University of Aberdeen

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I don’t have a gallbladder! Most people think the gallbladder is what makes bile, but it is the liver that makes bile which is then stored in the gallbladder. So, I can digest my food just fine!

Tell us about your career journey so far

I started off as a STEM communicator at Aberdeen Science Centre in 2014 whilst studying my undergraduate Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Aberdeen. I stayed at the science centre until 2017 when I left to pursue a PhD in medical sciences at the University. I missed my job there so much that I have continued to volunteer at the centre and at other STEM events as a STEM ambassador. I’ve enjoyed educating and bringing science to children all over the city so much, that I am applying for teacher training following the completion of my PhD.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

I always loved Biology and pursued a degree in a human biology-related area, but I would say that French was actually my favourite subject. I loved learning about the culture and feeling immersed in the language both in class, and whenever I had the opportunity to travel to France. I only studied it to Intermediate 2 (which is like the national 5s) so that I could focus on the sciences at Higher level, but have continued to learn languages in my spare time.

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

I would say the main subjects which have helped me in my role in the laboratory would be biology, chemistry and maths. There is a lot more chemistry involved than you would think, as interactions between drugs and making reaction mixtures for my experiments are something I have to consider on a daily basis. Naturally, maths comes into this for the calculations – although I’m usually only ever using 2 or 3 equations at most!

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The freedom to be creative and experiment with things not normally associated with a laboratory. For example, I needed some really thin string to tie some things together under a microscope (so they were REALLY small things), and I ended up using a human hair to do this. Interestingly, I found that chemically-treated hair (bleached, dyed) could stay in a knot much easier than natural hair – not something I would expect to find out on an average day in the lab!

What is a normal day in your role like?

There is a lot of freedom for when I can arrive and leave the laboratory, as long as I get the work completed that I set out for the day. I will typically come in around 10am, tend to some fish embryos to make sure they are healthy, then sit on my computer and answer emails/do admin. I will then head to the laboratory and start my experiments – this could be anything from microscope work using embryos to using molecular biology to work with DNA. Every day is different! I am typically in the laboratory until 5-6pm, with breaks throughout for lunch and coffee, and at the end of the day I will write down my schedule for the following day. By planning in advance, this helps me to keep on top of my work and ensures I have time to look over my results and plan even more experiments for the future.

Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

One thing that can be done at home is looking at your own DNA! Our body is made up of trillions of cells, most of which contain DNA – these cells have machines inside which can read the DNA like a book, with each chapter telling the cell to be a specific cell type. For example, one cell might be a skin cell and another might be a blood cell, or a nerve cell or a heart cell. DNA is so small that we can’t usually see it, but using the below activity you can get the DNA out of your cells and see it with your own eyes!


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