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Who am I?

I am a second year PhD student registered at Warwick University but based at both Warwick HRI (Wellesbourne) and Rothamsted Research (Harpenden), which means I get to travel on a lot of trains! But how did I get here (other than sitting on yet another train!)

Where did I come from?

I was born in Winchester (which is beautiful!) and spent six years fishing my adventurous cat out of the river before heading to...

Melton Mowbray, of the pork pies and Stilton cheese. After a quick detour to Oxford (watching the recently reintroduced red kites!) I wound up in...

Leicester (Where David Attenborough grew up! Also where Gary Lineker began his footballing career, once home to the heaviest man in England and the Elephant odd mix) where I decided I wanted to be a vet...yeah so that didn't happen. I spent weeks mucking out, pigs, horses, goats, rabbits, ducks, hawks, owls and chickens (by far the worse), did work experience at several vets and had a go at keyhole surgery (a simulation, not the real thing! They didn't trust me that much, especially after I broke the washing machine.) But despite all that, I didn't make the cut. So what did I do instead?

Biological Science with Zoology at Leicester University! I received a 2.1 and the Zoology (Henry Walter Bates) Prize (Woo!) I also did a research project examining the effect of a tape worm (Schistocephalus solidus) on sticklebacks...aka watching fish swim around a lot, culturing worms and counting their eggs. It was surprisingly fun and even produced potentially publishable results. But potentially more importantly than that it helped me realise that 'normal people' get to do PhDs. (Before then I'd just assumed you had to be insanely intelligent and a little nerdy.) And thus I finally wound up where I am now.

What else do I do?

When not playing with the bees, running PCR, screaming at Genstat or writing up the tonnes of random paper work that seems to go with doing a PhD...what else do I have time to do?


Becky Nesbit (former Rothamsted PhD student, now Dr Nesbit!) talked me into founding a blog with her, 'The birds and the bees and feeding the world' for which I also designed the logo. Check the blog out by clicking on the link or searching on google. Or you can follow us on Twitter.

Minibeast safaris:

One of the best things about Rothamsted is the links it has formed with local schools. Apart from various visits, open days, Science Ambassadors and a hundred and one other fun things to do my favourite activities by far are the minibeast safaris. We take groups of kids out with vacuum guns, nets and collecting tubes and just let them play. We give them interesting information about entomology and the wonderful creepy crawlies they find and (I at least) fail to identify half of what they show me! I am getting better though and hopefully will have plenty of opportunity to improve.

Student & Sports and Social Rep:

Do not ask me how this happened, I think I was sneakily volunteered for both positions without really knowing what I was getting myself into! Not that I'm complaining:) I get a say in how training is handled at Rothamsted and try to organise herding students together with cake and drink to get some feedback from them! And I get to help organise various fun social events from the Halloween and Christmas parties to the sporty Inter Departmental Leagues over the summer. I've had worse jobs (I mentioned cleaning out chickens right?)

The Grapevine Newsletter:

Set up by my friend and flatmate Sam Gorny (who stupidly asked why Rothamsted didn't have a student's Newspaper!) I am currently in charge of puzzles although I do write the occasional article-provided someone checks my spelling!

Speaking of writing...

I occasionally try my hand at some fiction writing. This year I found out about 'Nanowrimo' (or 'national novel writing month') which takes place every November. The challenge is to write 50 000 words worth of vaguely coherent novel within 30 days! I say vaguely coherent as the idea is to spend December doing the actual editing and making the thing actually coherent. I thought 50k might be a lot to fit into one month especially with travelling back and forth between HRI and Rothamsted, getting to grips with PCR, organising various xmas activities...but I managed it! I'd definitely recommend having a go, it's insane and odd but strangely rewarding.


My grandma spent ages trying to teach me how to wrap wool around needles to produce something pretty and useful...I managed a scarf...or 20. I am now fed up of scarfs. I have no more space for scarfs. No one I know ever wants to receive a scarf from me again no matter how nice the wool! Luckily Trish Wells (Ladybird researcher extraordinaire and star of a fun comic!) came running to the rescue! She is currently teaching me to knit something a little more interesting. First gloves, then baby booties, then...the world! Mwa ha ha!


Although I don't have the best singing voice in the world (or a much smaller area:S) I do enjoy to torture people with my singing! Luckily with enough other good singers I can just about fit in and not rupture ear drums. And even luckier I've found people who can actually sing and are willing to put up with me and even tell me I'm good occasionally. I refuse to ever torment anyone with a solo, but am enjoying singing with Nichola and the choir...whenever someone reminds me when it is!



Me & geese

Leics uni 

Jenny Swain



cat rabbit