Haihan Tan



University of Cambridge (2006-2009), King’s College London (2011-now)


BA (Hons) Biology, MA (Cantab)

Work History:

Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore

Current Job:

PhD student


Me and my work

I look at how cells know that they should be part of the heart, and not another part of the body.

The heart is an amazing organ, and all of us need a healthy heart to live well. But after a heart attack, an injured heart can’t repair itself very well.

With the help of our little zebrafish, I am trying to find out what makes a young cell know that it will finally become part of a heart, and use that knowledge to make stem cells better able to become “pre-heart” cells that can be used to rebuild an injured heart.

My Typical Day

Coffee, lab work, more coffee, and fish time.

I always start off with a good strong coffee before I put on my lab coat (and sometimes the thinking cap) and potter around with experiments. More coffee at regular intervals throughout the day keeps me going, and the day is never complete without a therapeutic trip to the aquarium to visit our zebrafish!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly, geeky, curious.

What living thing amazes you the most?

Tough question! I’d say any creature from the sea catches my fancy the most.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

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

I think I’d be in science engagement – never far from science in general.

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

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve been amazed by the natural world since young, and David Attenborough’s documentaries sure helped too.

What would your superpower be?

Eyesight that can resolve molecular structures!

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

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

The most Fantastic thing about Life is:

That it’s breathtaking no matter what form it takes.

Other stuff

Show us where you work:


Microscope room in the lab where we look at baby fish.