Jasmine Penny

Thanks for everyone who voted for me. Good luck to Andrew, Alexis and Mario tomorrow!

Favourite Thing: Going through the whole process of looking after my cells and then seeing how their personality and behaviour have changed.



The Rochester Grammar School (1999-2006), University of Bristol (2006-2009), University of Nottingham (2010-present)


A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and English Language, AS Levels in Geography and Citizenship and a BSc (Hons) in Veterinary Pathogenesis

Work History:

I have had a few jobs whilst studying, including proof-reading a PhD thesis at Imperial College London; but my favourite temporary job had to be working at the theme park Diggerland!

Current Job:

PhD Student


University of Nottingham. My PhD is funded by the EPSRC and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.

Me and my work

I look at the behaviour of a dog cell type, when grown in the lab, in order to better understand how joint disease can be treated.

Cartilage is a tissue that lines the ends of your bones in the body and is shown is this diagram. myimage1 It is a really useful tissue which helps to keep your joints, and you, moving smoothly!  However, cartilage is really bad at repairing itself, so it needs outside help and that is where scientists, like me, come in. Osteoarthritis is one really common disease that happens when cartilage is damaged and for patients it can be a really painful disease to live with.  At the moment osteoarthritis can’t be cured but there is a lot of research going on to improve the repair of damaged cartilage.


Hang on though; I said I work on dog joints right?  Well, dogs can get osteoarthritis too and cartilage is actually really similar between species, so the dog can be considered as a model organism.  A model organism is where scientists look at a species that is easier to study in the lab in order to get a better understanding of what is happening in other organisms.


So what do I actually do?  I look at a particular cell type called the chondrocyte and here is a picture of some dog chondrocytes I have grown in the lab. myimage2 This cell type is only found in cartilage. I look at the behaviour of this cell in the lab because one current method of treating damaged cartilage is to take chondrocytes, grow them in the lab and put them back in the patient.    The main problem with this is that these cells change their personality in the lab; just as you adapt and change to different situations – so do cells!  Therefore my work is based on encouraging chondrocytes to be and stay themselves. I have looked at the physical environment these cells are grown in as well as feeding them different supplements to help them remain a true chondrocyte.

My Typical Day

One of the great things about being a scientist is that there isn’t really a typical day!

There are a lot of different elements to being a scientist – it’s not all about being in the lab and when you are in the lab there are lots of different things to do!  Some days I have to check to see how my cells are growing; to see if they need feeding or see if they need to move house (this is called passaging, when the cells have no more space to grow, they are put in a bigger container).  Other days I need to look at the cells more closely to see what proteins they are making.  When I’m not in the lab, I am looking to see what other research groups have found out about chondrocytes!  It is really important as a scientist to keep up-to-date what is happening around you in your subject area!

What I'd do with the money

I would split the money between two fantastic charities; TASTE and the British Science Association.

I bet lots of you have had fun with experiments in the lab in your Science lessons, but not everybody is as lucky as you.  This is where the first charity comes in.  TASTE stands for the The African Science Truck Experience.  This involves a mobile lab going to rural parts of Uganda to give students like yourselves the chance to take part in experiments they wouldn’t normally have access to.  If you would like to learn more, here is their website:

The other half of the money will be given to the British Science Association.  Science communication is really important to this charity and one of their major focuses is to encourage students like you to become the scientists of the future.  If you want to investigate further what this charity does here is  their website:

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic Positive Biologist!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Anyone who knows me will know that the answer to this question is Will Young! I do listen to a wide range of music though; so I think my favourite band at the moment would have to be Mumford and Sons or Of Monsters and Men.

What's your favourite food?

Hmm…this is a tough one! I suppose, if I had to pick a favourite, it would have to be chocolate, along with a lovely cup of tea of course!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

The most fun thing I have done would probably have to be running six miles dressed as Tweety Pie to raise money for Sport Relief!

What did you want to be after you left school?

Ever since Primary School I wanted to be a Vet, so it is quite funny that I have ended up doing my PhD in the newest Vet School in the country.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really no! I think I got told off for being too chatty sometimes!

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject changed throughout school, but the two I always loved were Biology and English Language.

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

My proudest achievement so far has got to be having my literature review published!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Two wonderful Science teachers I had at school. Dr. Dobson, my Biology teacher and Mr Bruce, my Chemistry teacher always had a lot of passion and enthusiasm for their subjects. They were also always happy to answer my many questions!

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

I think I would be doing something with animals or my other interest is the history of our language so I would probably be investigating that!

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

My first wish would be to own a house with a lovely garden as I am still living in a halls of residence at the moment! Secondly I would like to have more funding so I can do more research with my cells. Finally, I would love to buy a Volkswagen Camper Van and go travelling around the world in it.

Tell us a joke.

There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can’t!

Other stuff

Work photos:

As I Scientist I have two homes:

1. My lab bench, full of bottles, beakers and boxes myimage3


2. My desk in the office.  Lots of folders and textbooks here! myimage4


Finally, I thought you’d like to see a picture of me in action!  Here I am using liquid nitrogen to freeze some samples.  You have to be really careful using liquid nitrogen which is why I am wearing a visor. myimage5