Libby Clements – Graduate Tutor

So, it’s my turn to introduce myself to the blogging world… well the most important thing you need to know about me is that I am an incredibly immature, mature person – I am the one sitting in a meeting trying to stifle a giggle at something completely inappropriate. I have three kids (15, 11 and 5 years of age), all of whom are more mature than me and frequently roll their eyes at my antics. I also have 2 dogs (Labrador and Fell Terrier) so life can get quite hectic!  As I was unsure how to introduce myself, I asked my eldest son for his assessment of me… and nervously awaited the results, which are:

  • Rugby mad
  • Juggler of kids, work and general life
  • Master of being fashionably late
  • Caffeine addict
  • Teacher of common sense
  • Dog lover
  • Homework helper (biology only)
  • Likely to work my fingers to the bone and then put my nose on the grindstone for fun!

Although he seems to have forgotten all the time I’ve spent with him on Maths and French 😊 (understandable I suppose), I’m quite pleased with his reflection on his mum!

I have been working on my PhD in Microbiology for 9 months now, and although I have accomplished quite a bit, I still feel like I’m out of my depth and constantly behind schedule – my awesomely supportive supervisors assure me this is completely normal! Along with my colleagues who you have already met on the HumBugs blog, I am researching the cause of disease in preterm infants, specifically necrotising enterocolitis. I gained my BSc in Biological Sciences at Teesside University, during which time I developed an interest in bacterial communities and the potential role of probiotics in bacterial community structure and disease prevention. I have been able to take this interest further in my PhD as I look more specifically at the probiotics used on the NICU ward for the preterm infants and what effect they have on the bacterial communities by extracting DNA from stool samples and Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) from the mothers’ breast milk samples. I have presented my research question and proposed methodology to my peers and superiors at a rather intimidating research day:

Presenting PhD methods for the first time!

During the second year of my degree we had a guest lecture from Dr Christopher Stewart from Northumbria University, he introduced me to the intricacies of the preterm microbiome and potential of DNA extraction from stool samples. Little did I know that just a few years later I would be published on one of Chris’ papers and be working closely with him whilst he is completing a prestigious post-doc in America.  Feel free to view the paper at … A little luck and networking can go along way! So far, it’s been a steep learning curve, especially on the statistical analysis front – but worth every additional grey hair that now has to be dyed!