Rebecca Cook

Thank you everyone that voted me, I am surprised but so happy to have won!

Favourite Thing: If I had to pick one favourite part of science, it would be deciding what to do next and planning the experiment. In my research, I will often have to decide what is the next step and I really enjoy thinking and debating what is the best thing (or things) to do next. It requires a lot of reading of already known scientific facts and then developing a question I want answer. When I have decided on the question (for example how fast to cancer cells grow), I then plan the experimental details to answer this question.This has to be very detailed and accurate so that the experiment works!



Maidstone Girls’ Grammar School (1998-2005), University of Cambridge (2005-2008)


I have four A Levels, a MA(Hons) from Cambridge University and a PhD from the University of London.

Work History:

I carried out my PhD at the Institute of Cancer Research

Current Job:

Currently, I hold a post-doctoral research associate position at UCL


University College London

Me and my work

I grow cancer cells in dishes to learn about how they behave.

I study a particular protein called Retinoblastoma Protein, in a large number of cancers this protein is turned off to allow cells to grow out of control. This means  in normal, healthy cells this protein protects you from getting cancer. My research has shown that this protein protects the DNA (genetic material) in a normal cell from becoming the bad type of DNA (mutated) that can lead to a tumour.

My Typical Day

Check emails, feed my cells, analyse some data, set up or finish an experiment and finish the day with some reading of other scientists work.

One of the best things about being a scientist is that I don’t really have a typical day! My days are very varied, I am mainly based in the lab doing experiments, in order to figure out how the protein I am interested in protects DNA. I also spend time reading, responding to emails and importantly talking to other scientist about my work. Talking about my research or other people’s research is a very important part of my job but also something I find extremely interesting.

What I'd do with the money

I would use the money to invest in some experimental tools that I could take into schools to show students a real and exciting science experiment.

I am a STEMnet ambassador and through this I go into schools to talk about science. I would use the money so I could afford to carry out more exciting experiments that replicate more closely actual experiments done by scientists.This would give a better insight to how research works and hopefully get people excited about a career in science.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Organised, intelligent and dependable.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Currently I am a big fan of Mumford and Sons and Bastille.

What's your favourite food?

Thai..or maybe mexican!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to a music festival in a zoo!

What did you want to be after you left school?


Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really, mainly just told off for talking in class.

What was your favourite subject at school?


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

Presenting my work in front of a nobel prize winner!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Two of my grandparents died of cancer before I was born and this inspired me to get involved in the fight against cancer.

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

A football referee – I’ve been a qualified referee since I was 14.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To be taller, more patient and unlimited money I could use to fund cancer research.

Tell us a joke.

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is my (slightly messy) lab.


In these flasks my cancer cells are growing, the pink liquid is called cell culture media and contains all the nutrients the cells need.


These are cancer cells I have grown in the lab and then using special dyes to stain the DNA blue. The red dots show where the DNA is broken and I look how quickly cells repair these broken bits.