FROM FUSION: AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Career: Biological research

Sarah Heaton tells us what it's like to work in nutritional science

Working in biological research is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. I like the fact that my work can be applied to real life situations and it is exciting to think that I am doing things that nobody has ever done before. I am free to come up with my own ideas and I control the direction of my research, something that is not possible with many jobs. It can be difficult when things do not go to plan and if experiments do not give the expected results, but it is challenging to work out why not. These feelings are all part of research and when something works, it's fantastic!

As part of my PhD I am setting up a model for the transfer of iron from mother to foetus during pregnancy. The hope is that when more is understood about this process, we will be able to prevent pregnant women from becoming anaemic; a common problem that is harmful for mother and baby alike.

Most days involve planning and carrying out experiments but there is no typical day that I can describe. Admittedly some go slowly, while I wait for a piece of equipment to become available or for an experiment to finish. Because I work with living things, it is important to be flexible, and my working hours can vary and sometimes include weekends.

My work comes under the heading of nutrigenomics, which is concerned with the relationship between food and our health. In trying to understand this complex relationship, we examine things called gene expression, protein translation and metabolic change in response to foods, using cutting-edge technologies developed as a result of the human genome project (see box, right).

We know that the foods we eat have a range of different biological effects; for example, people who eat a lot of foods containing polyphenols (e.g. apples and onions) are much less likely to develop certain types of cancer. Understanding these interactions and translating science into advice for healthy living is really difficult, but also very important.

In senior school I enjoyed science, particularly biology, but it was while I was doing my A-levels in biology, chemistry and mathematics that my interest in human health and disease really developed. I did my degree in molecular biology and genetics at the University of East Anglia, which I really enjoyed. However, my introduction to research was through a third-year project; after that adventure, I was keen to continue with research. I applied for a PhD at the Institute of Food Research, and I have been working on my PhD for almost 18 months.

There are lots of routes into nutrigenomics. You might, for example, go directly into nutritional science. Because of the wealth of data generated by computational skills they are in great demand - mathematicians and computer modellers, for example. Many clinicians are interested in the effects of diet on specific diseases, and a clinical route into this research is also popular. Take your pick!

What is the human genome project?

The idea behind the human genome project was to answer some of the questions that surround human DNA. It took place between 1990 and 2003 and was carried out by the US Department of Energy and the National Human Genome Research Institute. It resulted in the full completion of the human genome sequence in April last year: a list of approximately 25,000 genes. The findings will continue to be useful for many years in addressing the legal, ethical and social issues that DNA and its uses excites. Have a look at the article on stem cells and cloning on pages 10 and 11 for more information.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary TA - West London - Autumn

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

AER Teachers: Graduate Secondary TA - West London

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies