Well done Euan!
Favourite Thing: Because I don’t have to do experiments I get to go on lots of walks around London to think through science problems! I also love helping other people with their science problems by talking through solutions.
University College London (2005–2015); Padgate High School (1998–2005)
PhD Theoretical biology; MRes Modelling biological complexity; MSci Mathematics; A level Maths, Physics, and Art
Pfizer; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; University College London
University College London
I’m 29 and live in Enfield, north London.
I grew up in Warrington in the north-west, but my parents are both from Kent. I moved to London for university.
I finished my PhD in November last year, which means I can call myself ‘Dr Rob Stanley’. My mum is particularly looking forward to my graduation where I have to wear a silly hat (a floppy one, not a mortarboard)!
I got married in March!
I don’t have any pets but I really want a cat.
I use maths to investigate how cells work. I also teach other biologists maths and computer programming.
The cells that make up your body are complicated machines. To stay healthy they need to respond in the right way to information about themselves, their neighbours, and the world around them. All sorts of diseases are caused by cells misbehaving or not playing well with others.
While most biologists try to understand how cells work by doing experiments, I use maths and computer programs to try and understand how cells work. I make predictions exactly like how weather forcasters try to predict whether it will rain. We can then test these predictions.
In my current job, I also write materials for an online course to teach other biologists how to use maths and programming so that they can try and predict things about the parts of biology they are interested in.
My Typical Day
Lots of time with a computer, some time with a pen and paper, and an occasional walk.
I’m a bit of an odd biologist as I’m rarely in the lab. (I have tried to do experiments, but I wasn’t very good at them.)
I start the day with a coffee and by writing down the things I need to get done. I’ll then spend some time catching up with technology and science news.
My work is often with a pen and paper, solving algebra equations. Otherwise it’s on a computer, trying to get my code to work!
To take a break in the afternoon, I often go for a walk or a swim to think about how to solve my science problems.
What I'd do with the money
I’d develop a game to explain how models can be used to predict things about biology.
I think computer games and board games are a brilliant way of showing how simulations can help us predict things about the real world.
Both games and computer models have a set of rules, which must be followed by the player or computer, for a certain length of time or until an event happens (for example, someone wins). If we have a game or a model that represents part of the real world (for example, monopoly = property buying) then we might be able to use what we learnt during play to help us understand how the real world works.
For another project I’ve made a game to understand why all penguins aren’t criminals (based on a David Attenborough video). I’d like to spend the money on materials (e.g. printing, hardware) to help me develop and produce another game, based around evolution or ecology, which I can then take into schools or to science festivals. I have a couple of ideas: 1. how different animals can coexist in different habitats; 2. how genes/proteins evolve to interact with each other. Perhaps you can help me decide!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Geeky, curious, artistic.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Go! Team
What's your favourite food?
My wife has coeliac disease, so anything gluten-free and tasty that she can eat.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A stand-up comedy routine about my PhD at the Natural History Museum and at the Green Man music festival!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I didn’t know. I did a maths degree because I was always good at maths.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
For talking in class! (Or for the person next to me talking!)
What was your favourite subject at school?
Anything where I didn’t have to write an essay! So maths and art.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Getting an article I’d written published. That bit of science will always have my name next to it!
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after I left university! Doing a PhD seemed the most interesting option.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
An artist. I sometimes miss creating things with my hands.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1- A cat (I can’t have one because I live in a 2nd floor flat); 2- Enough money to be comfortable; 3- More time to read.
Tell us a joke.
33⅓% of the mice used in the experiment were cured by the test drug; 33⅓% of the test population were not affected by the drug; the third mouse got away.
This is what my desk looks like (Prof T. Rex is the latest addition):
This is what my lab looks like (I don’t work here very often):
It has all sorts of chemicals and machinery that I don’t know how to use!
I’m always impressed by the main UCL building. Here it’s the backdrop to my finished PhD thesis:
Here’s me on stage, at the Natural History Museum:
I volunteered for a research MRI one time, and they gave me my brain data. So I have a 3D model of my brain on my phone (I really need to 3D print it!):
I got the opportunity to spend some time as a visiting researcher in Boston, USA. My favourite part was the baseball:
Here I have an owl on my head: