Nicola Ibberson

Oh wow! In utter shock. Thanks to all the students who asked such fab questions, and all the scientists :)

Favourite Thing: I love reading the referrals that come into the lab; you get to learn the medical background of each person who comes in for testing. Working in a lab, you don’t get any direct contact with patients, so it’s easy to forget that every test-tube you deal with is a real person, with a real family and a real life. Reading their background helps me connect with the person behind the sample.



Heckmondwike Grammar School (1998-2005), University of Manchester (2005-2008)


BSc (Hons) Biology; A Level Law, History, Psychology, Biology, General Studies; AS Level Chemistry; 11 x GCSE

Work History:

Various part-time jobs: I sold furniture, made greasy sandwiches, stacked shelves at the Co-op…Then after uni: Genetic Technologist II at Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust (2008-2009); Trainee Scientist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge (2009-2011)

Current Job:

Pre-Registration Clinical Scientist in Molecular Genetics


Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

Me and my work

I read the blueprint of life: your DNA, and can determine the risk to you, your family and your unborn children of inherited disease.

In Molecular Genetics we provide the NHS service testing for inherited diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, some forms of breast cancer and Huntington disease. We get samples from children, adults, and even unborn babies (some diseases are so severe that parents like to know whether their unborn child has inherited them).

Some of these people are ill already, and their doctor is trying to work out why; other people have a family history of a disease and come for testing to see whether they might be at risk.

Have a look at our department website for some more info:

My Typical Day

Reading DNA sequence, researching the effect of mutations, talking to doctors and nurses about appropriate testing for their patients.


my desk


my desk buddies 🙂


A snapshot of a DNA sequence; can you see a difference between the top sequence and the bottom sequence? This is what a mutation looks like.

What I'd do with the money

I would use the money to support the work of WISE; who help women and girls to pursue careers in STEM subjects.

WISE is a charity that helps women and girls to understand the options available to them in scientific and engineering careers. They provide resources and funding to enable women to experience what life is like as a scientist or engineer – careers which are typically male-dominated.

If I were to win, my money would go towards the hands-on ‘Try It Out’ days that WISE helps to organise in collaboration with companies, which will allow girls to experience a day or two in the life of a scientist in their chosen field.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Off the wall

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I’m totally in love with Ben Howard

What is the most fun thing you've done?

This is a hard question! Most of the fun things I’ve done involve my family. They are hilarious. Other than that: wristbanding at Leeds Fest last year and singing karaoke at a Thai wedding.

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

I’d wish to be more confident and better at drawing. My third wish would be to have a happy life. :)

What did you want to be after you left school?

Initially a’ popstar’ (hahaha), then a doctor, then a scientist

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, for singing the lyrics to a particular South Park song aloud in class…

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

Spoke about my research project at a national conference, and unexpectedly won the Best Speaker Award!

Tell us a joke.

There were two potatoes in an oven. One potato said to the other ‘Blimey, it’s warm in here.’ The other replied, ‘AARGH! A talking potato!’

Other stuff

Work photos:


this is our lab. It’s quite new and spacious, which is quite a rare thing!


we have four huge freezers that store all the DNA samples on all the patients we have ever tested. This is just one section of one freezer!


this is a thermocycler, which is basically just a glorified air con unit for tiny tubes. It heats and cools the DNA sample to a specific programme, which allows us to copy the bit of DNA we are interested in millions of times.


this is one of the machines we use to get DNA out of a blood sample


inside the above machine!