Hayley Lees

Already getting lots of great questions! Keep them coming :)



I went to The Pingle School and Sixth Form in Swadlincote, Derbyshire (1999 – 2006), The University of Oxford (2006 – 2010 as an undergraduate, 2010 – present studying for my DPhil)


A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, History and an AS-level in product design. Masters in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry (MBiochem, Oxon)

Work History:

I use to help out at my dance school before I went to uni, and now I teach undergraduates studying Biochemistry and Medicine

Current Job:

I am in the fourth year of my DPhil at the Biochemistry Department of the University of Oxford


Drs Alison Woollard and Lynne Cox

Me and my work

I’m trying to find out what makes us all age

What does every single person on the planet have in common?

We all age. And the older we get, the more wrinkles we get, the greyer our hair gets….but more seriously, the higher our risk of getting really nasty things like cancer, heart disease, ¬†Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get older, but not get all these age-related problems? I think so! If we are going to be able to make this happen, we need to understand what goes on inside our bodies – inside our organs, tissues and cells – and that’s what I do as a scientist. I try to understand what goes on inside us to make us age.

To do this, I work with tiny nematode worms called C. elegans. Although they obviously look very different from us, they share a lot of our genetic makeup. This means that studying the ageing process in these little worms can tell us a lot about how humans age!

My Typical Day

I use microscopic worms to find out how they (and therefore humans) age. The ageing process is very complicated and so I do lots of different types of experiments, meaning I don’t really have a typical day!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Talkative, enthusiastic, and a chocoholic!

What living thing amazes you the most?

Everything is amazing!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Filming the Christmas Lectures was pretty fun!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?


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

Either a baker (cakes, yum!) or i’d love to do David Attenborough’s job.

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

Made a worm glow in the dark

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

Seeing a cell down a microscope for the first time when I was 11, and realising the world is more complicated and interesting that what it may seem at first! I was also lucky to have some really great science teachers at school who made me passionate about the subject :)

What would your superpower be?

Being able to fly would be cool!

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

It would be for no one to be lonely

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

Sticking my fingers down the aorta of a heart! (Lecture 1)

The most Fantastic thing about Life is:

That it happens at all!

Other stuff

Show us where you work:

This is the bench I work at most of the time.


Each one of these plates contains thousands of tiny worms…


And this is what they look like under a micrscope. The little dots are worm eggs!


A DNA gel – just like the kind they use at a crime scene or for finding out who your father is! But this one can tell me which of my worms is a mutant.