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Volunteers' Week Spotlight: Jennifer Loudon, PhD Student in Immunology

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

In my spare time I like to write, I published two children’s fiction books in high school. I also enjoy reading and going to the gym. I like travelling to new places and exploring different countries.

Tell us about your career journey so far.

Though I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, I knew my favourite subject was biology, so I applied to study bioscience with forensic investigation at the University of the West of Scotland and was accepted. However, I didn’t find forensics as interesting as I’d hoped and instead favoured a pharmacology class I was taking as part of my optional modules. So at the end of year 1 I changed course and went to study pharmacology and immunology at the University of Strathclyde. I got straight into year 2 as I had passed year 1 in a general Bioscience course at UWS. I found this course much more interesting and quickly realised I was drawn more towards immunology, which explored the immune system, than pharmacology and therefore I graduated with an honours degree in Immunology and Microbiology! There were a few changes along the way.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

I enjoyed biology in high school as I was interested in learning how our bodies work. I remember first realising that there were gaps in the knowledge of biology and wondering, ‘Maybe I could find the answers?’ These gaps intrigued me, which is probably why I find research very interesting. Who wouldn’t want to find the answers to previously unsolved questions?

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

Writing is important in my role as a PhD student, both because I will be publishing my thesis at the end of my course and all experiments I do have to be written up, but also because there is a lot of communication required in science. It’s important to get your work out there and get people interesting in what you’re doing. Reading is also a big part of the job as you need to be up to date on all literature published in your relevant subject area to ensure your work is original.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I enjoy designing and carrying out different experiments in the lab as every day is different. But an important day for me was when I first presented my work to a large audience at the end of year 1 of my PhD. I was nervous to speak in front of people but the experience was very rewarding and I found myself feeling proud that I had done it.

What is a normal day in your role like?

Once a week I have a meeting with my lead supervisor to discuss progress and upcoming work. There we decide on an experimental plan of action for the week. Some days I will be carrying out immunofluorescence (IF) which involves staining cells to look for certain things, and other days I will be doing an ELISA protocol to test which drugs cells respond to (these are especially interesting as we can change the drug and use different combination to see which would work best as potential treatments).

And what does your job title mean?

I am a PhD student; this means I am working towards gaining my doctorate (PhD) in Immunology. I am currently studying the immune system in relation to a specific field (which in my case is COPD).


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