Isabel Webb

Thanks so much for the votes guys!

Favourite Thing: Solving problems – if I’m using new equipment or doing a new experiment, I love when I’m able to use my brain and come up with new ways of making things work



BA in Natural Sciences from University of Cambridge, 2009-2012, The Hertfordshire and Essex High School, Bishops Stortford 2002-2009,


I have a BA in Natural Sciences, and I did A level Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics

Work History:

I spent a summer working at Harper Adams University looking at reducing infections from fresh veg, as well as summer jobs at clothes shops and a factory – not science jobs though, so definitely not as fun!

Current Job:

I’m currently a 2nd year PhD student


The John Innes Centre, Norwich

Me and my work

I am trying to understand the bacteria that live inside roots of peas and convert gases from the air into food for the plant

I’m a second year student doing a PhD (a four-year research project) in the microbiology department (bacteria and fungi) at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.


I am looking at pea plants and a special type of bacteria, called rhizobia, which lives in the roots. The rhizobia are able to take nitrogen from the air and turn it into a form that the plant can use to make DNA and proteins. In return for the nitrogen compounds, the plant gives the bacteria sugar to make energy. I am trying to understand a set of proteins that the bacteria makes when they are inside the plant, but don’t make when they are living in the soil.

One of my lab-grown pea plants: myimage3

At university I studied plant science – and I am really fascinated by all areas of biology, especially plant science and bacteria. In my spare time I also try and get involved in science communication and also science policy – how the government is influenced by the science that researchers like me do!
In my spare time I like to bake lots of cakes. I then like to go to the gym so I don’t feel bad after eating all the cake! I also donate to the Battersea Dogs Home, or go to visit my parents with their new puppy (it is a very cute puppy).

My Typical Day

Lots of different experiments – both old and new – plus trying to get involved in new opportunities just like I’m a Scientist!

I often run experiments overnight – ┬áso my first job in the morning is always to look at the results of those or set up the next experiment (if there is one)! I then set up any new experiments, and my day is off. If an experiment takes a while (sometimes they can take hours) I try and do lots at the same time to keep myself busy.

If I get any spare time, I like to update twitter, or the blog I run to keep the world updated on my scientific (and other) interests. I sometimes also spend time doing something a bit different – maybe helping out with a school visit, or something like I’m a Scientist… I have even had a few chances to speak to people from newspapers and radio.

Often in the day there are talks from other scientists about their work – both people who work here, and visitors. These talks are great to hear about all the new discoveries that people are making! Science is a fast-moving world, and I love that about it! Sometimes it’s me doing the talking – but this can be quite scary!

What I'd do with the money

I’d use it to help fun a stand at a Science Festival – to motivate young people to get involved in science, and show them how AMAZING it is!

Lots of people look at scientists and think that they are all ‘boffins’. If you ask children to draw a scientist, they often draw a mad man with crazy hair. I’m no expert, but I like to think I don’t look like that. I would use the money to either run a session at schools to talk about my life as a scientist, and do some demonstrations, or I’d go to a science festival. I went to the Big Bang Fair and Cheltenham Science Festival last year, and they were both brilliant, so I’d love to be able to take my own stand to something like that.

Explaining our science at Cheltenham Science Festival – just the sort of thing I’d put the money towards! myimage7

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Energetic Creative Friendly

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Chocolate Brownies

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I went to India last year – it was amazing!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea what I wanted to be. So I did a degree in science, and just went on from there

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Once or twice…

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics – how things change!

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

I got to watch and take part in the Royal Society Christmas Lectures (I was on the TV!). My field trip to Portugal was pretty fun too!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

David Attenborough – I could watch his shows ALL DAY

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A musician or actress in musicals

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

Finish my studies and get my PhD. Get a great job that uses my science knowledge as well as my creativity. Have lots of money (who wouldnt?!)

Tell us a joke.

I had a friend who was a mushroom. He was a fun-guy

Other stuff

Work photos:


My favourite mug in the office – a giraffe for a handle. Definitely makes coffee time more enjoyable!: myimage2

Our lab loves our pet carnivorous plants: myimage1 myimage5

A chemostat – our very complicated piece of equipment! myimage6

The John Innes Centre, where I work myimage4