SarahJayne Boulton

WOO HOO!!! Congratulations of the massive variety to Ash!! Well done that Docter!

Favourite Thing: I like it when loads of different types of scientists get together and work out a massive, new, really awesome set of experiments. I know it might sound ridiculous, but I just can’t wait to try something new. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m so excited to try something I haven’t done before, that no-one has done before. Feeling like that makes your job worth getting up for.



I did both my degrees at Newcastle University, 2004 – 2007 then 2008-2012


I’ve got some A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Art and Classical Civilisation, a BTEC Foundation Diploma in Fashion Design, my BSc in Pharmacology and a PhD in Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies.

Work History:

I was a New Technology Leader at Labman Automation in North Yorkshire, I taught and demonstrated practical techniques to the BSc students at Newcastle University and now I’m a Research Associate at the same Uni! In my spare time I run a screenprinting studio under a gallery in Newcastle called Squarah.

Current Job:

I’m a Post Doctoral Research Assistant in my universities brilliant Dermatological Sciences Group


Newcastle University

Me and my work

I’m a biological diagnostician, I use nanosensors and gold electrodes to work out how how DNA and our cells’ batteries, the ‘mitochondria’, are affected by solar radiation and the environment we live in.


In chat, you guys asked me how I made nanosensors and what colours I could dye my cells. Well…


This picture is of some nanosensors about to be filtered so I can used them in my cells!! The nanosensors made of a polymer that is soluble in water once stuck together, but in this picture they’re suspended in ethanol, so the liquid is cloudy. They look yellow because I’ve trapped the dye FITC inside them which is pH sensitive, so I can find out the pH inside my cells on the nanosensor are safely inside them.


This image is of some rat alveolar macrophage cells (they’re like housekeeper cells that clean the lungs) stained with 2 different dyes. DAPI makes the nucleus look blue, while BoDiPY makes the cytoplasm look green. The BoDiPY dye is sensitive to stress, and judging by the brightness of the green and the number of phagosomes in the cells – these ones are pretty stressed out!! 10 points to anyone who knows what a phagosome is!?!

My Typical Day

Coffee, tea, grow some cells, tea, play with the lab toys, fix the machines, coffee, emails, data analysis, make a discovery…then maybe some more tea!

What I'd do with the money

I’d use it towards building a new DIY Science App, with loads of instructions and protocols for science experiments at home (or maybe a bit outdoors…)

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Tony Stark Wannabe

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I ♥ Big Business or anything else containing a canny riff or two.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Science-wise? Designing and building a new kind of lab robot was pretty cool, as was discovering a compound made from a sedative could stop energy production in cells. Life-wise though? Jumping out of planes is always fun.

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

What did you want to be after you left school?

A chef. I trained initially as a Pastry Chef after my A-levels, but I simply wasn’t hard enough. It’s a super tough profession. Turn’s out I’m pretty good at science though, so it’s OK!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I was an absolute Angel. ;)

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

Designing and building a new kind of lab robot was pretty cool, as was discovering a compound made from an old-school sedative could stop energy production in cells, maybe causing Parkinson’s disease.

Tell us a joke.

Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. One says, “I think I’ve lost an electron.” The other says, “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive…” (I am so so sorry)

Other stuff

Work photos:

So I work in a lab with about 30 other people that looks a bit like this:


Everyone has their own little bench space and their own topics of interest, but we all work together to get the data saved! My best wee pal in the lab is Pat. Some people say he looks like a toaster. I say those people are just mean. He’s a potentiostat that can measure really low currents of electricity. This is handy when you want to measure the movement of super reactive oxygen from cells or parts of cells (the reactive oxygen is actually called ‘superoxide’. Awesome.)


Sometimes I have to talk about science and sound very official, but I’m not a very offical looking person, I generally walk about in band t-shirts and shorts (and lab coat…) so I have a special moustache that makes me look a bit smarter then I actually am.


It totally works. :S

So yes, Pat the Toaster has to be used with a few electrodes, they’re like his eyes and ears that let him sense whats going on with the sample we’re looking at. I have to make a lot of them by hand, and they’re really quite fiddly to make, see how small they are? I am hand electrode maker champion of the world (so wish that was a real thing I could put on my CV, as I’m pretty sure I am it)


There are other electrodes too, made of ultra pure gold and platinum. When everything’s all rigged up, it looks a bit like this. Heath Robinson to the max. (you should google him, because he’s a legend).


As for the cells, I grow melanoma cells that originally will have come from tumours that were surgically removed from people suffering from skin cancer. Some have lots of pigment and literally look like black paint when they’re all spun down together. Others have no pigment at all, and look a bit like yoghurt all spun down. I’ll try to take some pictures to show you.

Anyway, we have to grow them in a really controlled environment called an incubator, with lots of carbon dioxide (keeps the pH right) and warmth (just like as if they were part of a body – keep them at 37). My cells grow in flasks, other people grow them in different things, but this works well for me!


More pics and info coming soon – check back in a bit!