Alison Graham

Favourite Thing: My favourite thing is explaining the difficult bits of science to students (or anyone)!



Newcastle University (2001-2004), University of Sheffield (1998-2001), St. Aidan’s County High School (1996-1998), Solway Community School (1991-1996)


Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, B.Sc. (Hons.) in Genetics and Microbiology , A-levels, GCSEs

Work History:

Post-doctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield, Principal Fermentation Scientist at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies

Current Job:

Teaching Fellow in the School of Biology


Newcastle University

Me and my work

I teach university students about microbiology – what bacteria are, how they grow and how they can be useful to us in food production and clean-up of pollutants.

I am a Teaching Fellow which is like a Lecturer but a bit different.  A Lecturer teaches students and carries out research into a particular area of science.  A Teaching Fellow also teaches students but the research they carry out is into the science of teaching (the proper phrase is “pedagogic research”).  I am quite new to my job so I have not got any research up and running yet but I hope to look into ways to make sure that marking is consistent when lots of different people are marking one set of work (this is essential when you have four people marking work from 150+ students for example!) and new ways of doing on-line assessment.

Before my current job, I worked in research labs for 10 years looking at how bacteria respond to changes in their environment

My Typical Day

Every day is different (genuinely!) but might include giving lectures or running practical classes, marking work and providing feedback, catching up with students in the lab to see how their work is going or thinking of new ideas for teaching in the future.

There is no such thing as a typical day.  Every day really is different. 

I spend a lot of my time teaching microbiology which can be in lectures, tutorials or practical classes.  If I am not actually teaching, I might be preparing or updating teaching materials.  Another large part of my time is spent marking and giving students feedback on their work.  This is really important as students need to know how they are doing and how they can improve.

I supervise students who are doing research projects in the lab so I might go and catch up with them to see how their work is going.

I am doing a qualification in teaching in higher education so I might spend some time working on this or thinking of new ideas for teaching in the future.

I like to keep up to date with new work that is being done in microbiology or teaching so I go to conferences and seminars.  I also attend outreach events to get science out in to the community.

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to work with school teachers to make “school-friendly” microbiology practicals that are fun and interesting.

Teaching microbiology in schools can be really difficult because, sometimes, really specialist equipment is needed and also there can be health and safety issues.  There are three things I would really like to do: 1) I would like to work with schools to develop “school-friendly” microbiology practical work they can easily do; 2) invite some school students to come to the University and look at microbiology in action and 3) arrange for school teachers to have some training in practical microbiology techniques to take back and use in their school.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Who is your favourite singer or band?

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Been to Australia!!

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

What did you want to be after you left school?

A vet.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

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

I went horse riding in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado while I was attending a conference there .

Tell us a joke.

Did you hear about the magic tractor? It went round a corner and turned into a field.

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here are a few of my work photos.  Top left is me in the lab.  Top right is me presenting a poster at a Science Festival.  The other photos are of the various different bits of lab equipment I have used to do experiments.