Juan Carlos Lopez-Baez
Sorry that I couldn't answer everyone's questions today. I was by myself and trying my best. Great questions overall though and hope I have the chance to answer them again some other time :)
IBYS (Tenerife, Spain) 1996-2003, University of Birmingham 2003-2006, University of Edinburgh 2009-2014
Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Master of Research (M.Res.), Doctorate of phylosophy (Ph.D. – though this one only if I finish my thesis soon)
I have worked as an English teacher, a Summer camp monitor, a security stewart, a fencing teacher and a research assitant in a lab
I am a PhD student (though not for long!)
The Medical Research Council and the University of Edinburgh
Favourite thing to do in my job: Finding new things! There ‘s no better feeling than getting a result that confirms your other experiments or finding a publication (we call them “papers”) that agrees with what you are doing. Especially if they help you think outside the box and see your results in a different light
It is a love-hate relationship :)
I look at how zebrafish (a small tropical fish) can regrow their organs and tissues after they have been damaged or even after they have lost them (a process called regeneration – the same as what Wolverine does in The X-men!). They are also astonishingly good at it, being able to regrow their fins, their eyes, their nerves and even their hearts.
Unfortunately, they are better than us at it, even though we have almost the same amount of genes (these are the messages that make us what we are). This means that if we understand how they do it, we could potentially do it ourselves too!
My Typical Day
I do my experiments and take care of my fish, trying not to get wet in the process
Well, first, I work with animals and working with animals is not easy (not for me nor for them). Our foremost priority is to always make sure that they are well and are being treated as good as possible, because without them, none of our research will ever happen. They get fed 3 times a day (just like us), they have constantly running warm water (kept at 28 degrees centigrade, so it is like their own habitat) and we give them the best quality food we can (we even give them small shrimp, which they love!). We also try to make sure they have clean tanks and aren’t getting sick (for this we have a vet that comes and visits them every few months to make sure they are healthy).
After all the animal work is done, I get to play around with cool machines, especially microscopes. With the microscopes I can photograph the fish and see how they regrow their tissues . With them I can observe down to the cell level (the living components that make us) and see how they move and what do they form. I also look at how they are doing “genetically”, in other words, I look at what are the messages they activate to be able to do what they can do, in order to understand why they do it and why we can’t.
What I'd do with the prize money
I will donate it to my local school
We have an existing program with our local school and I will give it to them so they can use it to invest in Science related stuff. Whether it is for instruments or if it is for a cool trip somewhere where they can learn more about science.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Funny, outgoing and smart (well, at times…).
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I have travelled to different countries to present my research at international conferences and met a lot of new people from all over the world.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My grandmother and sir David Attenborough. She introduced me to him and he enticed me into science.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Some times, but not enough to distract me from my studies.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Probably a vet or a doctor. I always liked animals and helping people, so both were ideal for me.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I am really liking Rudimental right now.
What's your favourite food?
My mother’s gazpacho!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I travelled across China, stayed in hostels and met some really great people.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Finish writing my thesis, triumph in life and…be able to fly like superman
Tell us a joke.
How do tomatoes sneeze?…..ketchup!