Favourite Thing: My favourite thing about science is that I could really make a difference just by being logical and solving puzzles.
I attended a Flemish secondary school run by nuns in Belgium and then studied for both my undergrad and PhD at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
I got a BSc in Cell Biology and Pathology, skipped the Masters, and then received a Ph.D. in Radiation Biology.
I have had many jobs, including being a waitress, working behind the bar, and in a bookshop during my studying years. Since my Ph.D. I have worked at the University of Oxford (2 years) and at the Radboud academic hospital in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (3 years).
I work as a researcher in the lab where I tag radioactivity molecules. I then use these to image tumours as the peptides and antibodies bind only to the tumours. The radioactivity that is attached then helps me make a scan (PET and SPECT) with which I can see where the tumour is and if it has spread to other organs.
King’s College London
Me and my work
I am a biologist and I use radiation to image cancers and arthritis to help with treatment planning.
My Typical Day
My typical day involves a range of things: get up early, commute to work, fall asleep during commute, perform experiments, analyse data, think up the next great experiment, find collaborators, talk to peers, coach students, write papers, speak at conferences, apply for awards, sometimes get awards etc…
What I'd do with the money
I would print off big posters of images that we at my department have produced over the years to showcase in the hospital where I work and in schools. This will allow me to start a conversation about the use of radioactivity for imaging with people.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Hard-working, friendly, and ditsy
Who is your favourite singer or band?
My favourite singer at the moment is Iggy Azalea.
What's your favourite food?
My Dutch background has taught me to appreciate deep-fried food like oliebollen (dougnuts). which are sold from stalls at New Year’s only.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Trying to learn how to surf….. I managed to stand up for all of 2 seconds!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had no idea what I wanted to do, I just wanted to study something that would be challenging and might lead to something useful to people.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only sometimes during my teenage rebel years. I mostly studied hard and hung out with friends.
What was your favourite subject at school?
My favourite subject was English, but that was only because I helped teach part of the class, being the only native English speaker in school.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
The best thing I have done so far is to start a clinical trial with patients based on the experimental data I acquired. The trial will start in the next few months in the Netherlands to look at how new blood vessels are formed in patients with head and neck cancer. This process is usually associated with resistance to radiation therapy and thus imaging it might help change the treatment schedules of patients .
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
When I was little I wanted to become a doctor, but then realised as a scientist I could still have an impact on patients and care, just more behind the scenes.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
These days I think that if science does not work out for me I would run a bookshop/cafe.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
become a lecturer – buy a house – travel the world
Tell us a joke.
This one is my sisters favourite: “What do you call a fish with no ‘eyes’? Fsh”.
I share ‘my office’ with either other postdocs, PhD students or Masters/undergraduate students who are doing a project that lasts between 2-8 months. It is quite open plan and can at times be rather noisy, making thinking work hard to do. I also sit next to the offices of lecturers.
I work in the lab to stick different types of radioactivity to proteins, small peptides, or antibodies. As you can see, there are quite a lot of stickers warning people of the presence of radioactivity. Also there are thick lead blocks which are really heavy and hard to carry without any help that are there to shield the workers, i.e. me, from the radiation as much as possible.