Matthew Tomlinson

Quiet day today, however I have filled it with meetings, which are a lot less fun than chats!



Flegg High School 1994-1998, East Norfolk Sixth Form College 1998-2000, University of Nottingham 2000-2003 & 2004-2007, University of Leeds 2012-2013


BSc (Hons) Biochemistry and Genetics, Postgraduate Certificate in Innovation Management, PhD in Tissue Engineering

Work History:

Loads of places, McDonalds, Boots, the University of East Anglia, Nottinghamshire Police, the University of Nottingham, Miltenyi Biotec (as a sales rep) and the University of Leeds.

Current Job:

Postdoctotal researcher in tissue engineering


University of Leeds School of Dentistry

Me and my work

I take stem cells from teeth and turn them into bone.

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds School of Dentistry and I work in the areas of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.  I work mostly with stem cells from wisdom teeth, these cells come from the soft part in the middle of the tooth called the dental pulp (this is the part that gets taken out by a dentist during a root canal operation) and sometimes with stem cells from bone marrow (the soft part in the middle of bones).  We get these cells by putting them in plastic flasks and after a couple of weeks the cells we want have stuck to the plastic and started to grow.

Once we have enough cells we can then do experiments with them.  Most of my experiments look at proteins on the surface of the cells and how they change over time.  We do this using antibodies, which are small proteins which stick to the proteins on cells.  These antibodies also have fluorescent chemicals attached to them which glow when we shine a laser at them, so by shining a laser at the cells we can tell what each cell is and how it is changing.  We can then use this information to sort out the cells which are the best at making bone and use these cells in experiments to make bone-like cells in the lab.

My Typical Day

In the lab taking care of cells, using lasers to find out how the cells work and writing up my research.

I don’t think I ever have a typical day as no two days are ever the same!  However, if I was to have a typical day it would probably be something like this:  I get to work at about 9:45-10 after dropping off my children at school and nursery.  After a quick coffee while I read and answer my emails I head into the lab to check on my cells and start some experiments.  For the rest of the morning I’m the lab either running experiments, keeping my cells alive and happy or getting new cells from teeth.  I also spend some time writing up my lab book so I can keep a record of my experiments.

After lunch I’ll spend some time at my desk doing paperwork, which at the moment is mostly writing up my experiments so that I can send them to be published in scientific journals.  This takes a lot of time because I have to do a lot of reading about my subject and compare my results with what other people have already found.  Reading is a really important part of my job because I need to keep up to date with what other people have done, and believe it or not Twitter is a really handy tool for keeping up with the most current research!  Another thing I have to do is help write grant applications, these are long forms where we say what research we want to do and how much money we need to do it, we then apply for the money and hopefully get it (although this doesn’t always happen).  I also spend time writing presentations which I give at meetings either in the university or at conferences (which are meetings held so scientists can show what they have found out).  After that I head back into the lab for a little while to set things up for the next day or to make sure the lab is well stocked with the things we need before heading home at around 6pm.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, indecisive, laid-back

What living thing amazes you the most?

Tardigrades are amazing because of their ability to survive in so many harsh environments. Also salamanders because of their ability to regrow lost limbs.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Watching 3 gigs in 3 nights in 3 countries.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Occasionally, but nothing too serious!

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

I like the idea of being a writer.

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

Shown that some of my ideas were wrong and found out some much more interesting science as a result, oh and winning I’m a Scientist in November was pretty good.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?

A combination of good teachers, interesting stories in the news and wanting to find out new things.

What would your superpower be?

Being able to freeze or slow down time would be pretty awesome, because there is so much I want to do but don’t have time for.

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

It would be to make people more tolerant of other people’s ideas and ways of life.

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

Nancy Rothwell’s 1998 Pushing the Limits lecture.

The most Fantastic thing about Life is:

That it exists at all and that evolution has created something (us) that is capable of understanding how it works.

Other stuff

Show us where you work:


This is the cell culture lab I work in, we use the cabinets to keep our cells sterile.


These are a wisdom tooth and an extracted dental pulp from where I get my cells.


This is what is left of a dental pulp (the small smudge at the bottom of the tube) after I have broken it down to get the cells.


This is the incubator where we grow our cells.


My messy desk, as Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”