Daniel is a postdoctoral researcher and the founder of MicroScientists. He has a passion for microbiology research, and is a keen advocate of public engagement/outreach for promotion of STEM. Find out more about Daniel here
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Daniel. I’m a postdoctoral researcher in oral microbiology (and founder/principle investigator of the team that makes up MicroScientists!). My primary research interests include biofilms (think dental plaque), how microorganisms interact with each other within these biofilms, and infections and how the host responds to them.
I studied Biomedical Sciences for my undergraduate degree at the University of the West of England, and achieved a 2:1 (2006-2009). I then worked for a small biotechnology company in Cardiff for about four years where I was the R&D Scientist. The company is involved in probiotic industrial products (like grease degraders, surface cleansers, oil spills etc), surface disinfectants, and vapour-phase antimicrobials. It is quite a niche field and I reached the point that I could get to without further qualifications or substantial experience, so I applied for and was accepted onto my dream of doing a PhD in Cardiff in the summer of 2013.
My PhD project involved developing an in vitro biofilm model of Candida and bacteria to evaluate Candida virulence, and develop and use in vitro tissue models of the oral mucosa (hard palate in the mouth) to infect with the biofilms, and look at host responses. I spent some time in the University of Sheffield collaborating to learn how to culture a full thickness mucosal tissue model, and also completed a clinical study to characterise the bacterial microbiota of patients with and without a Candida-associated condition known as denture-stomatitis.
Since passing my viva in December 2017, I have worked as a postdoctoral Research Assistant on industrial funded projects (as co-investigator), and more recently my own research project as Research Associate as a continuation of my PhD work, with aspirations of following an academic career in the longer term! Professorship, here I come!
Quick fire questions:
Favourite colour: Blue
Favourite food: Sunday roast dinner
Favourite place: Anywhere with my family
Hobbies: Music (and playing guitar and singing in my rock band!), gaming, reading and exploring new places
Pets: Two cats; Hamilton and Billy
How would you describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, positive, determined and a social-butterfly (I know that’s more than three but I’m the boss :p)
What are you currently working on/what are your scientific interests?
My current work continues on from my PhD, looking at the mechanisms of microbial interactions and modulation of Candida virulence factors. I’m growing biofilms and looking at the effect of oral bacteria, and trying to see if probiotic bacteria can be used to selectively manage infections instead of drugs.
What do you like most about science/being a scientist?
It’s genuinely enjoyable. I absolutely love what I do, where I do it, and who I do it with. I have had a fantastic few years in academic research so far, travelled the world (USA twice, Portugal, all around the UK) and presented to huge and well-respected figures in my field. I have had so much exposure to this way of life that I really love, I never want it to end. The constant challenges and the fact you never stop learning are some of the biggest factors for me!
Who is your scientific inspiration?
I don’t have a single scientific inspiration. I really enjoyed science in general when I was in school, and I had some great inspirations during that time; Mr Alan Bootle who told me “If you think you can do it, you’re probably right” has stuck with me and been a beacon of motivation throughout the hardest parts. If I had to choose scientists though, it’d probably be someone like Isaac Newton (standing on the shoulders of giants…), or Alexander Fleming, who I think made huge leaps in microbiology, but was immediately aware of the limitations – a sign of a great scientist.
What keeps you going day to day?
They say that the people make the job you do worth doing. This is especially true in science. The guys in the office and the lab certainly make what I do enjoyable, but I think in terms of what strictly keeps me going, it is my family and my personal motivation and determination..and to be honest, stubbornness to get to where I want to be in the future.
Name three things you can’t live without/keep you motivated.
My family (my wife and two amazing boys), music (my guitar at least), and motivation comes from my personal experiences; baby James and my nan.
What are your longer-term career aspirations?
I would love to have a long term academic career. To follow in the footsteps of my PhD supervisor; to lecture, establish my own research niche and supervise students of my own, and continue to contribute to the wider scientific community and knowledge in general. Some of this is happening now, but there is a very long way to go before I’m independent!
What is the most pertinent piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in science (e.g. new PhD student)?
This journey is long, difficult, and you will often wonder why you bothered to follow it in the first place. But it will get better. Lean on those around you, physically and virtually. Cry and laugh as you will, but enjoy the experience. Immerse yourself as much as you can, do as much as you can and you will get so much more out of it at the end than just a few letters after your name. And this is the time to make mistakes, make them plentily but learn from them too!