Lynda Coughlan

Virus Nerdette

Lynda Coughlan

I work on tiny microbes called viruses. They are so tiny that you need a special kind of powerful microscope called an electron microscope to see them. Viruses are like a shell containing genetic coding material called DNA. We use viruses that do not cause illness in humans. We can chop up their DNA and swap it for pieces of DNA from other dangerous diseases like influenza (the flu).Then we package the engineered DNA back into the virus shell and use it as a vaccine.

This type of vaccine tricks your immune system into thinking it has caught the flu, but you do not get sick from the vaccine. When the cells in your body that are involved in fighting an infection see the bits of flu, they produce flu-specific weapons to fight it. This means that next time you really do catch flu, your body is ready to fight it off, and you do not get sick.

I get to travel all over the world as a scientist, presenting my research and visiting researchers in other laboratories to work together on new experiments. I work with lots of passionate and enthusiastic people who love what they do so conversations with people at work are always interesting.

Lynda is our Healthy Me box champion.

I love being a scientist because...

I learn something new and exciting everyday.

The most awesome thing I have done so far is...

Engineer viruses that help prevent or cure diseases.

My heroes are...

Rosalind Franklin, who helped us to understand the structure of DNA. I also love Jane Goodall (studied chimpanzee behaviour) and David Attenborough, whose TV shows are just amazing.

Advice I would give my 7 year old self...

Work hard and believe in yourself. You can be anything you want to be.

At primary school my favourite thing to do was...

Although we didn’t do science as a subject in school in Ireland, I knew I wanted to be a scientist from a very young age. I had a microscope at home with a projector and my whole family had to spend weekends looking at fly wings, beetle legs and animal hair.

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