Alex Pool

What an amazing week! Over the moon! :D

Favourite Thing: Growing different cells – and look at how they act differently (I’m even currently growing some Monkey kidney cells!)



Royal Grammar School, Guildford (’03-’08). University of Bath (’08-’12). Queen Mary, University of London (’13-present)


MBiochem (Hons) in Biochemistry

Work History:

I used to work in a doctors surgery – lots of ill people! I also ran the Students’ Union at the University of Bath.

Current Job:

PhD student in Cancer Research


Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Marys, University of London

Me and my work

I look at how we can stop cancer cells dividing, if we can stop that then the cancer dies.

Cancer starts when cells start to grow uncontrollably. Your body has loads of ways of trying to stop that happening, but sometimes those systems fail and cancer starts.

A lot of cancers make too much of a piece of machinery in your cells that controls your cells dividing (the process they go through to make more cancer cells). In a normal cell having too much of that machinery would kill it, but cancer cells are able to survive. By understanding how they survive, and finding ways to stop that happening would hopefully mean we could kill the cancer cells that have too much of this machinery.

To understand that I make cells with that extra machinery (called centrosomes) in the lab to see how they act. I use a big microscope to look at the cells dividing.

As an example of what I look at under the microscope –


To have a look at a video I took of cells dividing click here.

My Typical Day

Is very varied, from growing cells, to sitting in front of a microscope

What I'd do with the money

Put it towards a fun project we run here where students can come here for a week and see what it’s like to do research.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly, Energetic and Honest

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Mumford and Sons

What's your favourite food?

Can’t beat a Sunday roast…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went over to China for three weeks to help look after Pandas – amazing!!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I always knew I wanted to do science and discover new things

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I did well at getting away with things!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology – loved knowing how our bodies worked

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

I used to work for a lab where we made viruses that would only kill cancer cells – that was cool

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My science teacher at my junior school, she made everything seem so interesting

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

An explorer – is that allowed? Seeing the world and travelling would be a fantastic job

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

To find something completely new in Science. A bigger desk in my office (mine’s tiny!). To go travelling more often.

Tell us a joke.

What do astronauts do when they get angry? Blast off!

Other stuff

Work photos:

All of our research starts with growing cells. We grow them in plastic dishes called flasks:


We grow them in a special room called ‘Tissue Culture’ we have to use special cabinets that suck the air away, both to keep us safe but also to keep germs off our cells which would kill them.


Once the cells are grown we take them down to the normal lab and we stain our cells so that we can see them under the microscope.


The microscope we use shines lasers on the cells, the dyes we use then emit light so we can see them – we can make them shine different colours so we can see cells like this:


Part of my time I spend teaching university students, even when there is a hole leaking rain into the lab!


Then after it’s all done, I have a pretty awesome walk home through London.