Gemma Swiers

thoroughly enjoyed my week on I'm a Scientist. Thanks for the amazing questions! :)



Cundall Manor School, Ripon Grammar School, University of Nottingham 2001 – 2004 and 2004 – 2008


Bsc Genetics and PhD Developmental Biology both at the University of Nottingham

Work History:

Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford 2008 – now

Current Job:

I work as a postdoc funded by the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (LLR)


University of Oxford

Me and my work

I am trying to work out how a blood stem cell is made, where it is made and how it knows to be a blood stem cell.

Every day your body produces millions of different blood cells. These include the red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body, the white blood cells that fight infection and the platelets that help to stop you bleeding if you cut yourself. All of these cells are made from just one type of cell, a blood stem cell. These blood stem cells sit in your bone marrow (the bit in the middle of your bones) and are the cells that are used in bone marrow transplants. The blood stem cell is special because when it divides into two cells, one is a copy of itself (another blood stem cell) and the other is a different blood cell perhaps one that will become a red blood cell.

I want to learn how our body makes these blood stem cells so that we can try and make these cells ourselves in a test tube. If we could do this we would be able to make all the different blood cells and we wouldn’t have to rely on people giving us their own blood cells for transplants or transfusions.

My Typical Day

Every day is different

There isn’t really a typical day. I generally start my day reading my emails and planning what I am going to do that day. This will involve meeting other scientists to discuss my work, doing an experiment or two, analysing my experiments to see if they worked or not and reading about other peoples work. Some days I do a lot of computer work, trying to work out what my experiments mean and writing presentations. Other days I don’t use my computer at all and I just do experiments. I like the variety that my job brings, because no two days are ever exactly the same.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Thorough, fun & Yorkshire!

What living thing amazes you the most?

Axolotls are pretty cool, they have cute gills that stick out around their neck and are able to regenerate their limbs.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Whale watching in Australia was pretty cool

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Sometimes yes, but I hope I wasn’t a terrible student…

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

That’s a difficult question. Maybe a farmer.

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

I’ve been really lucky to be able to travel to various countries to present my research.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

A combination of great teachers and my cousin who died from a genetic disease called cystic fibrosis

What would your superpower be?

Wouldn’t it be cool to travel in time?

If I could change one thing about the world...

That we learn more from history and what’s happened in the past

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

I enjoyed learning about plants from Sue Hartley in 2009

The most Fantastic thing about Life is:

Life itself… how did we all get to be here?

Other stuff

Show us where you work: