Jessica Chu

Favourite Thing: It ‘wows’ me to hear about the current researches that are going on in different areas such as drug-delivery using antibodies made in a chemistry lab and some of my friends are making a lung tissue model . I enjoy doing something that have not been done before so I don’t know what to expect, which makes it exciting :)



Preston Manor High School (1998) Wembley, King George V High School, Hong Kong (2000), St Paul’s Catholic School (2000-2004) Milton Keynes.


The University Of Nottingham: BSc Biochemistry (2005-2008), MSc Oncology (2008-2009) and currently studying for my PhD.

Work History:

The University of Nottingham, Camp America, hospital volunteer and a few other places


The University of Nottingham

Current Job:

I am a 2nd year PhD research student.

Me and my work

To investigate the anticancer properties of several Malaysian Rainforest plants.

Around 4, 600 years ago, traditional healers (they are like doctors but only treat illness with mixing natural ingredients found in places around them) have been using plant, minerals and animal organs in treating many diseases. Some of the ingredients used have been recorded in very old books found in Egypt, India and China. Chemicals from nature are known to contain a wide range of different chemicals and these chemicals are active in the body so they can be made into drugs that will work inside our body. At present, many studies on plants found in the marine and the rainforest are being studied by scientists all over the world hoping to discover new chemicals that could help treat fatal diseases such as cancer and malaria etc. For example, in the 1960’s, taxol was found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) by Dr. Wall and Dr. Wani in a screening program held by The National Cancer Institute (NCI). Taxol and similar chemical compounds can be used to treat cancer patients. My work involve testing plant extracts from four Malaysian Rainforest plants to see if they have any anticancer activities. I started the investigation by adding the extracts to a number of cancer cells as a screening process to see if there is any positive results (i.e. cancer cells stopped growing or died).  Following the positive results, I want to see if the cells were dying naturally or it was because of the extracts. I aim to have an idea of how the chemicals in the plant extracts work by the end of my PhD.
Here are some photos of my plants and cells! myimage1 myimage2
Here are some pictures of colon cancer cell lines under the microscope myimage4
and here are breast cancer cell lines under the microscope myimage5</

My Typical Day

Each day varies but most days I will start the day with checking on my cells and if I have experiments to set up or finish off then I will do that and analyse data I have obtained those experiments.

So maybe 4 days of a typical week.. it will go like this: 9:00 am – I like to start my day by checking my e-mails on my university account for meeting, delivery collections and messages from my supervisor etc. Then I will check on my cells to see if they are OK and if I have experiments to set up and/or finish off.

10:30 am- if I have time then I will have a 15 minutes tea break otherwise I will be at the desk trying to make sense of the data I have got from previous experiments. If the results are inconsistent then I will plan a repeat of the experiment, however if the results are looking good then I will start thinking what I want to know next and look-up new experiments that will help me to do so.

12:30pm- I normally fit my lunchtime around what I have to get done on that day- so it might be an hour with my friends or just 15 minutes at my desk listening to some music and have a quick check on facebook, as you do. 

1:30 pm – Sometimes there is a group meeting, if not, then I will continue searching for new experiments or setting another one up for a repeat.

At some point in the day my Master’s student will come to do some work in the lab so I have to make some time to supervise him when he’s in the lab.

Sometimes I will need to check if any materials are running out in the lab then I will arrange to reorder the items. If the orders have arrived, I will go and collect it.

I will search and read some scientific papers and websites relating to what I am doing.  

6:00 pm – is usually home time for me! (Sometimes I will stay only until 5 pm and other times maybe 7pm or later!)


At times I will need to end the experiments in the evening instead depending on e.g. when I have added my plant extracts to the cells so the day’s activities can be reversed from after checking my e-mails! Previously, I needed to use some machines in chemistry so I was working with different people in our the chemistry department for 3 months. It was nice to have a change of scenary and meet new people! Usually once a year, I will be able to attend a big meeting organised by a relevant society for other researchers from across the country, europe and the world to present their work and meet each other. The meeting and presentations can take place over a few days and the hosting country can be anywhere in the world!

What I'd do with the money

I would like to organise day trip to visit our labs and different research groups in the university and a trip to the Science museum in London.

I would like arrange a group visit to the university and before the visit- I will ask everyone to select (broad or specific) areas that they are interested in finding out about. Then I will try my best to allocate different groups to people working in those area to give some of their time to do a guided tour around their lab and give a short presentation of their work. Everyone will be in small groups and the groups will rotate so everyone will get to visit the labs on their list! The visit can be followed by a guided school trip to the Science museum in London where everyone can watch something ‘sciencey’ at the IMAX 3D cinema there and explore different parts of the museum and ask more questions!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Cheerful, Reliable and Organised

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Too many to name but here’s a few: Chase & Status, Magnetic Man, Adele, Jamie T, The XX, Lil Wayne

What is the most fun thing you've done?

When I arranged to go traveling by myself with a few random people (now friends) around the west of the US and learning to snowboard and ski.

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

1. To find something novel and exciting in my research 2. To have a super good memory so I only have to read/see things once to remember it 3. To be more confident

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be a scientist or to work in the marketing department of a big company.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I do remember a few detentions and letters home!

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

Being involved in a After School Science Club where I got to demonstrate experiments to year 6 children and received a really good response from both the children and teachers. It was great to see the kids getting really excited, interested and thinking about what was happening in the mini experiments, a very rewarding experience!

Tell us a joke.

How do you make Lady Gaga cry? ………… Pok-er face