Pamela Lithgow

Favourite Thing: Trying to work things out! Give me a question or a problem and I love nothing more than working out the answer. This can be a science problem on which I need to do research or the questions on here which I have to try and work out the answers to and then explain!!



Folkestone School for Girls, Kent, 1996-2003


Royal Veterinary College, London, BSc (2004-2007) PhD (2007-present)

Work History:

I have worked in a clothes shop, as a waitress and in a gap year before university (to make money) I pulled things apart! I tested medical products to see how much force was needed to break them, it was good fun.


Institute for Animal Health

Current Job:

I am currently finishing my PhD on cells and African swine fever virus and how together they harm pigs. I have until September to finish so I am cramming at the minute.

Me and my work

I work with a tiny virus which goes inside the cells of a pig and makes them really ill, I am trying to work out what cells it goes in so we can stop it.

The virus I work on is called African swine fever virus and if pigs get it they can die very quickly. Not a lot is really known about this virus and how and why it kills the pigs. This is one of the great things about science, loads of stuff is just not known and that means that I can try and work it out which is what I love. So what I have been doing is looking at the virus and the cells from the pig to see how they work together. This hopefully can help us to understand why the virus kills the pigs and also to make vaccines to prevent the pigs from dying.  Here is a picture of my virus (I think its pretty cool!)


I wanted to put what I had last week as my favourite thing here, I still love it but I wanted to update it. So what was there was:

Talking!!! I talk at work to work mates. Then I go on conferences (travelling is also a great thing about being a scientist!) and I talk to more people about science. The great thing about science is that talking is good, we need to talk to each other to find out what people are doing and what exciting discoveries have been made.

My Typical Day

Planning experiments then doing them involving growing my cells and then looking at them with different kinds of microscopes

My alarm goes off about 10 times then I get up. I get to work and plan my experiments before having a cuppa tea and a chat with my work collegues.

My experiments normally involve looking at cells with different microscopes to see what the cells and the viruses are doing. I actually spend a lot of time looking after cells and setting things up.


The picture below shows some of my cells, I have to take care of them and feed them regularly  to keep them healthy for my experiments


I do my experiments with the virus on the cells and look at them again with a different microscope to see if anything is different. I sometimes get differences and can get pretty pictures


I can even look at single cells


If things are looking really interesting I can use a really powerful microscope to actually see all the insides of the cells


These pictures are really complicated and I find it really exciting to be able to see all those things but I have to get expert help to work out what everything is!

Occassionly I kill some time on the web including twitter (@PamLithgow, follow me if you like) and facebook (yeah scientist use them too), or on websites that make jokes for scientists (because I am a geek at heart)!!

What I'd do with the money

I would buy a laptop and a camera to attach to the microscopes. This would be used by the group at my institute which goes to schools and clubs to show students science.

There is a group at my institute that goes to schools and clubs to show students science. We do all sorts of silly and messy experiments!


One of the things we do is look down microscopes at horrible blood sucking bugs.

myimage7  myimage9

When we do this it can be difficult for all the students to see what we are looking at down the microscopes and for us to tell them what is there. A camera and laptop would allow us to see what they are seeing and to explain to them what is there.

A laptop would also allow us to show the students videos and other stuff related to the other experiments we are doing with them.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Happy, Organised and Mad

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Snow Patrol

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I travelled around the world with my husband

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

1- Win a nobel prize! 2- Run a lab of my own. 3- Win the lottery

What did you want to be after you left school?

A ballarina, an airline pilot then I settled on a vet!!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really

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

Played with dry ice! This is probably naughty but it is amazing fun. You get bubbles and bangs; it is like playtime in the lab!

Tell us a joke.

How many lives does a radioactive cat have? 18 halflives