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Spotlight: Jocelyn Bisson, Veterinary Clinical Lecturer and PhD Student, University of Edinburgh

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I can do a headstand! I learnt how to do it in yoga classes.

Tell us about your career journey so far.

I trained as a vet as I wanted to combine my love of practical work with critical thinking and scientific discovery.

I worked as a general practice vet (dealing with dogs, cats, rabbits and occasionally seagulls) in Brighton for 2 years. I really enjoyed treating complicated conditions such as cancer in dogs and cats, so I decided to specialise in cancer treatment. I moved to Edinburgh to do my specialist veterinary training.

I quickly realised that we still have a lot of questions to answer about cancer treatment. Therefore, I decided to do a PhD in cancer research to try to answer some of these questions myself.

My PhD project focusses on early changes in pancreatic cells that lead to pancreatic cancer. Hopefully learning more about this process will help us improve treatments for both humans and animals in the future

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

My favourite subject was Maths. I really enjoyed the logical approach needed to solving equations and problems. Maintaining a structured and logical approach to my work has helped me a lot.

What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?

Biology is very important – understanding how the body and cells work is key to my job as a vet and as a research scientist. Chemistry is also very useful, particularly for understanding drugs. Communication and people skills are very important (although I work with animals, good communication with their owners is vital). As a scientist it’s also very important to communicate and share ideas with colleagues. I did English Literature at A-Level and it’s helped me a lot when writing research papers and reporting my scientific work.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The variety. Since getting my veterinary degree I’ve worked all over the UK (Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh) and have spent time on externships abroad (including Colorado and the Galapagos Islands). Every day is different with a mixture of scientific thinking, practical work, and talking to colleagues and pet owners. The best days are when you treat a patient successfully or make an important discovery in an experiment.

What is a normal day in your role like?

No day is ever the same! I often have experiments to do in the lab. These might involve work on the microscope, growing cells, making DNA or viruses and/or working with laboratory animals.

I also spend a lot of time listening to presentations from other scientists about their work or reading scientific papers. Science is about discovery and it’s really important to find out what colleagues are doing and see if you can apply some of their techniques to try and discover new things in your own subject.

I also spend time producing graphs, statistics and images so that I can present my work to colleagues. This work can be done remotely so if I don’t have lab experiments to do I can work from home.

And what does your job title mean?

Veterinary clinical lecturer means that I am a specialist vet working within a university. I teach undergraduate vet students and see patients that local vets have sent to the university for more advanced treatment.

I’m also a PhD student. PhDs are periods of research lasting around 3 years where I have an experienced scientist supervising me and supporting my research.

Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine and helps with digestion. STEM has several resources on digestion. This experiment is a fun one to do at home. Adding more ‘enzymes’ in the experiment (such as additional orange juice when placing the food into the tights) would produce more ‘nutrients’ just the same as pancreatic enzymes.


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