Holly Ellis from the Class of 2011, also known as ‘The Scouse Scientist’, is our latest Old Blue to step into the spotlight. A Clinical Scientist in Genetics, Holly has taken to social media to inspire young people from all backgrounds, to pursue a career in science.
Providing a first-hand insight into the fascinating world of Genetics, Holly discusses challenging topics such as Huntington Disease and Down’s Syndrome, and takes viewers into a laboratory to find out more about the variety of genetic tests available to patients.
To take a look at Holly’s inspiring YouTube channel and to find out more about Genetics please click here.
We caught up with Holly to find out more about her passion for Science, her new online venture and the latest scientific breakthroughs in the field of Genetics.
What attracted you to the field of genetics?
“In my previous school, the science building was called the “Rosalind Franklin” building. One day I asked my Biology teacher who Rosalind Franklin was and I learned about her role in discovering the structure of DNA. I was inspired by her work but disappointed that she never received the credit she deserved, and instead Watson and Crick took all the glory. This sparked my interest in genetics and got me thinking about women in science.”
What do you love most about your role?
“I love knowing that my work directly affects the lives of patients and their families. The results of genetic testing can have a huge impact on patient care and in some cases can even save their lives!”
Are females well represented in your field of work?
“I’m not sure of the exact figures but I know that women are generally underrepresented in STEM subjects as a whole. However, my message goes beyond supporting women in science and focuses more upon encouraging young people to reach their full potential and not be put off by thinking that they don’t “fit the mould” of a particular career type.”
Are there any new developments within the sector that you are excited about, new equipment/technology, new research or scientific breakthroughs?
“For me, the most exciting thing about genetic testing is that it’s becoming more and more integrated into routine practice in the NHS. Whole Genome Sequencing in particular is a new type of test that is likely to have a huge impact on children and families living with life-limiting conditions but for which a definitive diagnosis has still not been reached. Many of these families have been on what we sometimes call a “diagnostic odyssey” whereby many different tests have been performed over their lifetime but none of which have been able to explain their symptoms.
Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) allows us to interrogate all of the genes in the DNA of an individual in hope of finding a faulty gene that can explain the patient’s symptoms and provide a diagnosis. Having a diagnosis allows families to plan for the future and know what to expect from the condition. It also allows us to assess the risks of other family members being affected with the same condition and possibly prevent passing it on to future generations.”
What was the trigger point for setting up your Scouse Scientist platform?
“I have had the idea for years but always managed to find an excuse not to pursue it because I was worried about how people would react – especially nowadays with the rise in internet “trolling”! Eventually, one morning I just plucked up the courage and made my first video!”
What are your ambitions for the platform?
“I want to reach as many young people as possible and give them a different type of role model to look up to. I want to show that normal girls, from working class backgrounds, with strong regional accents can not only become scientists but can achieve anything if they put their mind to it!”
Do you carry out any additional outreach work?
“I am always the first to volunteer for anything that comes up involving outreach work. I have visited many schools in the city to talk about careers in genetics and been involved in careers fairs across the city.”
Why do you think young girls shy away from STEM?
“I feel that they simply don’t have enough role models in STEM that they can relate to. Nowadays, social media has a huge influence on young people, but these platforms are mostly used to follow reality stars, models and makeup artists – there aren’t many people out there for young girls to look up to due to their career in science. That’s exactly why I have started ‘The Scouse Scientist'”.
What advice would you give to Blue Coat students today, in particular females, considering a career in STEM?
“I would say that if it’s what you enjoy and have a passion for then don’t let anyone put you off. Unfortunately, when we see scientists on TV or in the media, they are often portrayed as an older male, with crazy hair and a “posh” accent. I am here to break down those stereotypes and show that normal girls can be scientists too, so if it’s what you want to do then go for it!”
Quick Fire questions:
Describe yourself as a Blue Coat student in 3 words
“Enthusiastic, friendly, determined”
Most inspiring Blue Coat teacher?
“Mr Clayton – my biology teacher”
What do you love most about Liverpool?
One ambition for 2020?
“To reach 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel – ‘The Scouse Scientist'”
Congratulations Holly and we wish you the very best of luck with your new venture!