Melissa Brereton

Favourite Thing: Eating cake! Cake and science are like salt and pepper! There is always something to celebrate in the lab and an excuse to eat cake. Whether it be an amazing result, a birthday or sweets brought back from a member on the lab who has attended a conference on the other side of the world! But on a serious note, I like the feeling you get when you battle away for months trying to get your experiment to work then at 7pm on a Friday night, just as you are about to give up, you get that EUREKA moment!



All Saints Catholic College (1998-2005), The University of Manchester (2005-2011)


PhD in Physiology

Work History:

The University of Manchester

Current Job:

OXION Wellcome Trust Training Fellow


University of Oxford

Me and my work

I play with mice who have lots of sugar in their blood and make them better by giving them a little tablet!

I am interested in finding out what happens to our body when our blood sugar is too high. This disease is called diabetes and affects millions of people worldwide and if we can understand what causes it, we can save lots of lives.

I work with mice where we have altered their genes (mutation) so they are diabetic. These mice live perfectly happy lives, eating, running around their cages and they even occasional try to bite me if they are quick enough! The only symptoms they have is high blood glucose and urinate a lot, just like patients with diabetes. Using these mice, we can perform lots of studies similar to what doctors do in patients. We can even make them better by giving them the same medication as diabetic patients!

My Typical Day

Busy… I usually have to move between 2 or 3 buildings performing lots of different experiments- then get 5 minutes to sit down at 7pm!

I get to the lab at 9am and try to spend 20 minutes answering emails and planning my experiments for the day. At lot of my experiments need to be performed at specific times, some before lunch, some in the afternoon, so it is really important to plan everything properly!

After I have checked my emails, I usually go and play with my mice. I make sure they are happy, healthy and sometimes I have to give them glucose to check if they are diabetic. Then it is back to the lab to have lunch with my lab mates before work starts again! In the afternoon I might have to cycle to a lab at the hospital nearby to perform some other experiments. Here, I get to take lots of pretty pictures of the pancreas where I look what happens to the structure of the cells which secrete insulin and glucagon- two hormones which control the levels of glucose in our blood. By about 6pm it is time to head back to the lab and fill in my lab book which describes everything I have done that day, whether it has work or what problems I have encountered! If I don’t do that, I easily forget! Eventually, I leave to go home at 7pm and its off to bed for it all to start the following day!

What I'd do with the money

I would like to set up a website where students can get advice and mentorship from scientist’s

I would like to set up a website where school children who are struggling with their GCSE and A Level science can ask questions to scientists s. The scientists can be undergraduate students, PhD students or postdocs who enjoy communicating science. The forum can also be a place where study notes or presentations can be posted to help the students with their questions

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly, loyal, joker

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Maroon 5

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to a conference in Orlando during my PhD and was lucky enough to stay a few weeks afterwards and travel along the East Coast of America!

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

(1) Speak another language. (2) Be able to sing! (3) Continue to get paid to be a scientist (yes, I’m a geek!)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A vet! But my careers advisor told me I wasn’t good enough and I stupidly listened to him :-(

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Once- for going the wrong way through the one-way system in the science building!

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

I found a new protein in the blood vessels from the human placenta that nobody had discovered before- it was a type of ion channel that allows potassium to leaves cells

Tell us a joke.

Why are frogs so happy? Because they can eat whatever bugs them!

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is the view from my office! [MYIMAGE_1]

The lab Christmas tree ! [MYIMAGE_2]

Office origami zoo [MYIMAGE_3]