Holly Shelton

Favourite Thing: Chatting with my science collegues about all different sorts of virus science questions and together figuring out which experiments will tell us the answers. Communicating your ideas and listening to others in science can help you understand the problems better!!



1991-1992 Doha College in Qatar, 1992-1999 Alsager School in Cheshire. I did A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths


1999-2002 University of Leeds Biochemistry degree, 2003-2007 University of Leeds PhD in Hepatitis C virus.

Work History:

During sixth form I worked in shops, (Ethel Austins helping grannies find the right size of pants and Argos at Christmas). During Uni I worked in my summer holidays to save some pennies for term time parties so I work in a call centre selling car insurance and as a customer adviser for a mobile phone company. After I finished all my studying my first professional job was at the University of Reading,


I now work at Imperial College London

Current Job:

Post-doctoral researcher

Me and my work

I create mutant flu viruses to understand how bird flu could cause illness in humans.

I am a post-doctoral research scientist working in a research group in a University. This means I have a PhD which I studied for after my degree. The good news is a get to call myself a Dr!!. In the group there are 4 post-docs, 6 PhD students and one research techincan who helps us all out with our experiments. We all have our research projects and our group looks at the flu virus. I am currently working on two projects. The flu virus can infect humans, birds, pigs, horses, dogs, tigers, seals and many more animals but they are all slightly different. My first question is to understand what changes a bird flu virus might need to make in order to infect humans. If we know the answer to this then we can watch out for the bird viruses and make predictions about which viruses may cause human disease in the future. When you catch human flu, you are generally sick for bout a week but then most people get better. However when a human catches a bird flu most people die. So my second question is to understand the differences inside the human cell when infected with a human flu virus and a bird flu virus.

My Typical Day

Collecting some snot from a ferret and then determining if there is any virus in it!

The best thing about being a scientist is that everyday is different but the one thing that they have in common is that they are all busy. Sometimes I even have to work weekends as once an experiment starts it can’t just stop for a weekend (the virus does not know it’s a Saturday!!). Most of my day will be spent in the lab doing experiments. We have two separate labs; one where we do experiments with cells and viruses and one lab where we look at the DNA or RNA or proteins of those infected cells. Sometimes I am working with animals too. The ferret is a very good animal to study human flu in as the ferrets get sick like humans but recover as well. So some days I am collecting snot from ferrets and checking their temperatures. Part of my day always involves recording my experiments in a lab book (a scientist’s diary) this lets me look back at what I have done before and improve the experiments for next time. I spend sometime catching up on the latest flu news online by reading journals and surfing the internet for flu news. Also part of my day will involve talking and meeting with colleagues to discuss results and what we are going to try next!

What I'd do with the money

Pay towards creating a website that describes all the fun virus work going on at our univeristy so schools can look us up and ask us questions all year round.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, determind, chatty.

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Sky dived over a glacier in New Zealand.

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

1. More hours in the day. 2. To be slimmer! 3. To discover something really important for man-kind.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Journalist but I found science so fastinating that I got side-tracked! I still get to write papers for publication as a scientist so I am part the way there!!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really, I used to get told off for talking and giggling too much – some things never change :)

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

Writing and publishing some of the experiments I did in a science journal so other scientists can read about it.

Tell us a joke.

There were two snowmen standing in a field. One snowman turns to the other snowman and says ” Can you smell carrots?”