Sophie Adjalley

Postdoctoral Fellow, The Wellcome Sanger Institute

Sophie Adjalley

Every year in some parts of the world, children just like you become so ill, with fevers, chills, and shivers, that they have to miss school. Unfortunately, some of these children (often the youngest) may not survive. The culprit is a disease called malaria that is transmitted from one person to another by mosquitoes.

Not just any kind of mosquitoes, though. Anopheles mosquitoes, carrying microscopic creatures called Plasmodium parasites. When an Anopheles bites a person, these microorganisms will slip undetected into the blood stream, travel to the liver, where they will silently multiply. Many of them will burst out and enter red blood cells, where they will find the nutrients to grow and spread. This destroys red blood cells and makes a person very sick.

I study Plasmodium parasites to gain knowledge of how they work and understand what makes them resistant to medicines. My research involves modifying the parasites by removing or changing genes to find out what happens to them. For that, I look at how these modified parasites develop when they are inside red blood cells that we keep in dishes in the laboratory. This means that I spend a lot of time doing experiments in the lab and looking at these pretty, but deadly, creatures under the microscope. The more we know about how the parasites work, the better we can fight them and eliminate malaria.

Sophie is our Deadly Creatures box box champion.

I love being a scientist because...

I get to learn new things about living organisms, with the hope that my discoveries will help to cure people from a deadly disease. I also love that I get to meet scientists like me from all over the world.

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

…actually something I will do in a few months: Traveling to Thailand to teach younger scientists how to experimentally study the malaria parasite.

My heroes are...

I have lots of heroes! My grandma introduced me to the first one, Yves Coppens, a paleoanthropologist, who studies the evolution of the Humans. Albert Einstein remains a favourite and a scientist who really impressed me is Susan Lindquist, who showed that inheritance could be transmitted not only by genes, but also by proteins.

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

Be curious, never hesitate to ask questions!

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

Reading!I loved to go to the library or a bookstore, sit in a corner and read books.

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