Alex who?

Portrait

Thanks for visiting my website! I am Alex, 32 years old and I currently live in Cambridge (UK). I have completed my PhD in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge in 2016/2017.  I've briefly worked as a Post-Doc and a science writer, and I am now working as a technical writer.

On this website you'll be able to find information on my educational background as well as work experience and examples of some of the work I carried out for two science societies. I also share a selection of art made in my spare time. On this page I'll give a more detailed account of my education and experiences since high school.

Undergraduate
and Master's























I became interested in art in my mid-teens when I started to design and make costumes. I also very much enjoyed art classes in high school. After graduating high school, I attended art school for a year where I studied fashion design. Although I improved skills in illustration, painting and photography and learned many new skills, I missed studying natural sciences as I very much enjoyed this in high school. I was therefore very excited to be accepted to the Bachelor's programme BioMedical Sciences (BMS) at Utrecht University. Adapting to academic education was challenging after spending a year painting, drawing and designing but halfway through the second year of BMS, I began to make great headway. By then, I had switched to Amsterdam University (UvA) as I planned to do my Master's there. After obtaining my BSc. in 2009, I enrolled in a two-year Master's programme (Medical Biology) where I obtained most credits through research internships which gave me a lot of experience in cell- and molecular biology. During this programme, I worked as a teaching assistant on an undergraduate course in early embryology which I combined with a didactic research project to assess the course itself, and provided suggestions for improvement. I also assessed how a newly developed 3D computer model could be used during this course. As the final part of my Master's degree I wrote a literature thesis on prion disease and my interest in this topic grew into a fascination!

While a student, I spent a lot of my spare time on artistic pursuits such as designing and making costumes, photography, illustration and I was also involved in the organisation of two art salon/club nights in Amsterdam and Leiden.

Please check out Portfolio > Selection of artwork for some examples.


Research assistant
in Stockholm
After completing my Master's in 2011, I moved to Stockholm to work as a research assistant on chromatin remodelling, which is related to my second year Master's project. I also worked on a smaller project on fibromyalgia. During this time, I volunteered as an English tutor for the Stockholm Student Union to help students with written and conversational English. As I very much enjoyed science, I decided to pursue further education and applied for PhD positions to work on protein misfolding and aggregation since this particular field studies prion diseases and related disorders. I was offered a Wellcome Trust PhD position in Leeds, had an offer to go to the University of Alberta (Canada) for PhD research but I decided to move to Cambridge (UK) for PhD research in Prof. Christopher Dobson's group in the Department of Chemistry.

PhD research
in Cambridge
In 2012 I moved to Cambridge (UK) to start PhD research on misfolding and aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein, which is the protein involved in development of Parkinson's Disease. I learned biochemical and biophysical techniques such as recombinant protein expression (in E. coli) and purification, assays to evaluate the propensity of protein to form aggregates, high-resolution microscopy and techniques to determine secondary structure of protein.

In addition to these experimental techniques, I also learned and improved many other skills:

- Finding, interpreting and organising specialist literature
- Accurate record keeping of experimental details, samples and protocols
- Proofreading
- Writing standard operating procedure compliant with health and safety
- Buying reagents, other consumables and equipment using an on-line procurement   
   application
- Planning experiments and booking shared equipment accordingly
- Data collection, data organisation and data analysis using several software packages
- Preparation of figures of experimental data and concepts
- Preparation of presentations and posters for both specialist audiences as well as a
   general audience
- Writing and preparation of material for conferences and publication
- Presenting my research at international conferences/meetings
- Taking part in group meetings/discussions
- Communication with people from different backgrounds and cultures across different  
   positions in higher education/academia

CU science
societies
During my PhD research, I've been active as commitee member in the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS) and in the Cambridge University Nanotechnology Society. I had several tasks:

- Designing/updating the society's website
- Designing promotional material
- Updating the society's FaceBook page and event listings on http://talks.cam.ac.uk
- Photographing some of the society's events
- Designing, editing and contributing to the CUAS printed newsletter Neptune
- Input on strategy, and administration

Please go to Portfolio > CU societies page for examples.


Future plans
I am still fascinated by science but wanted to pursue a career outside of academia. I enjoy learning about new discoveries and technologies and to communicate this information in a clear and engaging way: this is the reason I work as a writer.

Personality
and interests
I am an outgoing person and I enjoy meeting new people and being able to help others. I work hard and enjoy learning new things. I am also creative and have a wide range of interests such as medical/natural/physical sciences, fashion design, art and music. In my spare time I enjoy artistic pursuits such as illustration, painting, photography, sculpting and making costumes. I also enjoy going to museums and galleries, reading, going to the cinema, the gym and cycle rides.

In the past two years I became involved in the design and manufacture of silicone sculptures which was something in which I had no prior experience. I taught myself everything using the internet for research and developed ways to improve my technique. These efforts have been very successfull, enabling me to sell my designs through an on-line platform. I intend to explore other media in the future, with ceramics/pottery at the top of my list!