Jennifer Paxton

Thank you SO much everyone - I'm so pleased! :-) Great to be in the final with you Stef - it must've been close!!

Favourite Thing: I love thinking up new ideas for experiments. It is so exciting to think that something I have thought up or found out may actually go on to help someone in the future. Also the fact that you may be the first person in the world to try something new is pretty cool!



Dumbarton Academy (1994-2000), University of Glasgow (2000-2004), University of Strathclyde (2004-2005), University of Dundee (2006-2009)


I have a BSc (Hons) in Anatomy and then I decided to do an MSc in Bioengineering. This lead me to do a PhD in Tissue Engineering

Work History:

I worked in a chemist and a concert hall during my studies and have been working as a research scientist ever since.

Current Job:

I’m a postdoctoral reserach fellow which means I am a scientist working on a specific research project.


I am employed at the University of Birmingham, but I am funded by Orthopaedic Research UK, which is a charity that pays for research projects to do with the bones, muscles and tendons in the body.

Me and my work

I’m a tissue engineer, which means that I’m trying to find ways to grow bits of the body in the lab so we can replace diseased or damaged organs in people and make them well again!

My research is all about finding ways to make cells form tissues in the lab so that we could some day replace bits of the body that don’t work anymore. In particular, I am interested in growing tendons and ligaments – these are special tissues that hold our bones and muscles together! If our tendons and ligaments are damaged then we can find simple things like walking, running and even standing difficult and very painful. Unlike bones, that will usually heal after a few weeks, tendons and ligaments don’t heal very well at all and can cause lots of problems for people who  have injured them. Maybe you have heard of a footballer “tearing a ligament?” – this can often mean they have to give up football forever! It is my job to find ways to grow them a new ligament, maybe even using their own cells.

My Typical Day

My days are always quite different – but they usually involve doing lots of exciting experiments in the lab.

I get into work around 9am and spend about 30mins answering emails. Then I will go to the lab and see how my cells are doing and start either setting up experiments or preparing machines and tests to see how the cells are behaving. In the afternoon I will either stay in the lab, or go to my office to analyse my results, write reports, plan other experiments or meet with other people in my lab to discuss results. I usually finish about 6.30pm ( if I’m lucky!) but depends if my cells are behaving!

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to fund scientist visits to schools and pupil visits to labs or build a website to help explain science in a fun way.

I’d like to improve the links between schools and the “real life scientists”. This might involve getting scientists into schools to talk about their jobs or getting small groups to visit labs and see what we do day-to-day. I’ve also thought about building a website that would help to explain science to school pupils in a fun and inspiring way. I really love drawing diagrams to help explain scientific principles so could combine my love of science and art together.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Creative, caring and…curious!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I love the Foo Fighters, Band of Horses and Death Cab for Cutie

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Probably a holiday to New York, but I love going to gigs and like to do that as much as possible!

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

To be 1. happy, 2. healthy and 3. become a university lecturer so I can continue in research and teach the next generation of scientists!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I always wanted to be a scientist – I loved finding out about the human body and I also loved making things – so Tissue Engineer turned out to be pretty perfect for me!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Nope, not that I remember!

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

Being a scientist is great because sometimes you get to travel all over the world to present your research to other scientists. I’ve been invited to give talks all over the UK, San Francisco, Davis, Copenhagen and I’m hoping be travelling to Madrid and Venice later this year. I’ve also been lucky enough to win a prize for best research poster at a conference for my work on engineered tendons and ligaments.

Tell us a joke.

A horse walks into a bar, and the barman says…..”why the long face?”

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is my cell culture lab, where I grow and look after my cells and engineered tissues myimage2

The cells live in this heated box – it keeps them at 37 degrees which is the same temperature as the human body myimage3

Just like us, the cells and tissues need fed to give them all the nutrients and energy they need to grow. Here I am feeding my cells in the plastic flask – their food is the red/pink liquid! myimage4

I can check my cells under this microscope that lets me see if the cells look nice and healthy. The microscope also lets me see that there are no nasty bugs infecting my cell cultures! myimage5

This is what the cells look like under the microscope myimage7.

They aren’t coloured in real life, but we can stain them with special chemicals to tell us important things about the cells (and make them look  pretty! 😉 ) myimage8

We can use stains to help us see if the cells are happy and growing nicely. In this picture the green cells are alive , and the red ones are dead. Most of them are green though, so that’s what we like to see! myimage9

This is my desk in my office. This is where I will answer emails, analyse my results, write reports, papers and presentations so I can show my results to other people myimage6

My own Albert Einstein! He sits on the shelf above my computer myimage10