Karen Reed

:-( Evicted - but still check out this website for a rap made locally to me that explains cancer and genes

Favourite Thing: Learning lots of new things and telling other people about them.



Pencoed Comprehensive School (1992), University of Bath (1992 – 1996), University of Cambridge (1996 – 2000)


3 A levels, Biology, Chemistry and Maths (grade C in all 3), BSc Applied Biology (grade 2:i) and a PhD in gene regulation and developmental biology

Work History:

Babraham Institute, Cambridge (2000-2002). Cardiff University, School of Biosciences, Cardiff (2002-now).

Current Job:

Postdoctoral Research Associate; I do research


Cardiff University

Me and my work

I work in the field of cancer genetics, and I use mice to look at all of our genes to see what happens when a normal cell turns bad and becomes a cancer cell.

In 2009 nearly 16,000 people in the UK died from bowel cancer (the 3rd most common cancer) and I’m trying to find new ways we could treat this disease by looking at the genes that cause the normal gut cells to become cancer cells.

Cancer happens when cells start to make more new cells, when or where they are not supposed to.  We need to make new cells all the time and we do this by a process called cell division.  Normal cell division is VERY highly controlled, so that we only get new cells when they are needed.  The controls come from the instructions in our genes. Our genes are pieces of DNA that have jobs to do.  If our DNA gets damaged it could stop a gene doing its job properly, and that can change the way lots of other genes do their jobs.  As a result,  the normal control on cell division can be lost and you can end up with cancer.

If we can understand all that happens to all of our genes in the really early stages of cancer, after one gene gets damaged, then we can possibly find new ways of stopping or treating the cancer cells.  That is what I’m trying to do.  We can also try and find new ways of telling if someone has cancer or diagnosing cancer at a earlier stage which is important because the earlier you treat someone with cancer the better the outlook.



My Typical Day

Very varied, but I check the health of my mice, do dissections, do experiments in the lab, go to meetings, listen to others talk about their work (hopefully learning lots), read papers, write reports, and help others with their work.

One of the best things about my job is that every day is different.  There are some routine things I do all the time, like looking after the mice, but I learn something new most days.  I really enjoy helping and teaching others.  My least favourite thing is writing papers, but it’s an important thing to do.

What I'd do with the money

I would love to develop a mobile lab that can turn up in schools and community groups and allow people to experience some hands on science experiments and learn about the causes of cancer at the same time, so I’d put the money towards that.

People generally enjoy doing hands on science experiments, and this can be a perfect way of delivering scientific messages behind cancer awareness. If people are aware of the risk factors and understand the science behind cancer development, they could, if they wish, alter their way of life to reduce the risk of developing this disease. I think a mobile lab would be a fab way of explaining what is cancer?, the science behind cancer and raise awareness of cancer risk factors and early detection methods. In order to set up a mobile lab I’d need some equipment, including a microscope with PC eye piece, so I’d put the money towards getting this dream on the road.



My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Loving, Placid, Inquisitive

Who is your favourite singer or band?

No one favourite – most things on the radio (either radio 2 in morning or nation or kiss rest of day)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Got married and had children

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

To get a permanent and secure job. To make a break-through finding in work that could improve peoples lives. To live a long and healthy life then to die quickly and painlessly at a ripe old age.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea, but I enjoyed biology and liked the idea of doing research or working in medical labs.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

No – I was a swat and goody two shoes – I HATE conflict of any sort.

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

For personal satisfaction it’s helping others on their route to being a scientist.

Tell us a joke.

A duck goes into a bar and asks the barman for a drink. The barman replies “sorry mate we don’t serve ducks in here”. Not being put off, the duck asks again and gets the same reply. After a while of continual asking the barman loses it and says rather rudely “look I’ve already told you we don’t serve ducks, so get out of here!” Still not deterred the duck asks the barman again for a drink. This time the barman is livid and snaps “I’m not telling you again, WE DON’T SERVE DUCKS. If you ask me one more time I’ll nail your beak to the bar”. The duck pauses for a while then politely asks the barman “do you have a hammer?” The barman looking confused says “a Hammer? No. Why?”, so the duck replies “Can I have a drink please?”

Other stuff

Work photos:

The lab – about 20 of us work in here myimage1

The office (as tidy as ever) – my patch is the bit in the middle myimage2

My bench – again the middle one of 3 patches and again not very tidy!