University of Dundee

Nicola Goodman Q&A

Born in Glenrothes, Fife (though the accent seems to fool most people into thinking I am either "posh Scottish from Edinburgh" or American...) Nicola Goodman is a lab technician in the laboratory of Dr Paul Davies at the MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee. Since April, Nicola has been working on COVID-19 research.

What COVID-19 project are you working on?  

At the moment, I'm testing a number of antibodies that we have produced to get a better understanding of COVID-19 and the coronavirus in general. These are tools to test for different parts of the virus so that we can see if a person is infected. 

As an example, one of the antibodies recognises proteins that are thought to be involved in helping to move viral DNA from one cell to another, aiding in replication of the virus which leads to a more prevalent infection. 

What do you normally work on?

My usual job involves collaborative research which involves growing a lot of cells. I spend a lot of time talking to the cells I'm trying to grow, in the hopes that they grow faster (I've yet to see any evidence this works but it can't hurt to try). 

What’s your typical day?

I spent the first month of lockdown working from home and reading the constant production of COVID-19 scientific research papers. As more and more countries experienced the virus, more and more case studies and research have been published.  

Now a lot fewer people can work at any one time, and therefore the only people in the building at the moment are those who are involved in essential research. While PPE was heavily important before, it is now paramount. 

What’s it like to work in the School of Life Sciences?

I used to sit as a group of 8-10 other researchers to eat lunch, and that was the first thing to stop. We used to have a building-wide pay day pizza party once a month, where researchers from different departments all got together and socialised - that is probably the thing I miss the most! A few members of the research community have been working hard to maintain social connections and organise weekly online gatherings; from yoga to pub quizzes, so that there is still a community spirit.

Why did you come to Dundee?

Originally, I came to Dundee to do my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. I stayed for the new integrated MSci program, graduated, and then found myself with a job here. I had considered moving elsewhere to get a fresh start, but Dundee provided the most interesting opportunities, and I had the added benefit of already knowing the environment and atmosphere!

What inspired you to become a scientist?

When I was in high school, I didn't really plan on it. I had considered becoming something like an electrician - I just wanted to do something useful that was also a hands-on job. I like being a bit of a handyman and fixing things. Along the way I realised that science satiates that curiosity I have for puzzles - I can ask questions, and then design experiments in order to try and find the answer. Sadly, I've since discovered it's not always that simple, because with each answer comes three new questions, but I should have a nice long career ahead of me to find a few more answers! 

Tell us a science fact

Scientists can now make artificial chloroplasts which is super cool - now we can make functional fake plants 

What activities are you undertaking to de-stress?

I've gone through just about every activity I could think of during lockdown - I'm not the most relaxed person at the best of times so I've had to make an extra effort over the last two months.

What can’t you wait to get back to once lockdown is lifted?

Monday night pub quiz at the George Orwell. 

Quick fire questions:

  • Tea or Coffee? Tea - fruity or minty but probably once a month at most 
  • Morning or Afternoon? Neither, I'm an evening person
  • Animal Crossing or Tiger King? I've been playing Animal Crossing for the last week, definitely that one