Chris Whittle

Favourite Thing: To be honest, I love talking to other people about what I do however I can. It’s a sneaky way of being able to talk about yourself and get other people listening.



Penketh High School, John Moore’s University, Liverpool Hope University, University of Manchester


BSc Applied Biology, PGCE Secondary Science, MRes Translational Medicine, PhD Biomedicine

Work History:

I’ve worked as a science teacher at a high school in Warrington, and as virologist at Novartis Vaccines

Current Job:

I’m currently doing my PhD


University of Manchester

Me and my work

Why does diabetes mean that women have much bigger babies?

When women have diabetes in pregnancy, they are much more likely to have big babies, which can be a big problem when giving birth. Not only is birth much more difficult, but these babies are much more likely to have problems during pregnancy.

We now know that bigger babies are much more likely to become obese or get diabetes themselves later in life. This means that something must be happening to their DNA and the way that it is packaged while they are growing in the womb. Genes in DNA can be turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ by being packaged in a certain way.

I’m looking at how the problems with blood sugar in the mother can change the way that the placenta and the baby develops. This is due to the placenta allowing certain nutrients to pass straight from mother to baby without stopping. These tend to be sugars and fats. These can then induce cells to start producing different substances or grow in different ways.

My Typical Day

Ensure that everything I’m doing is going to drive my research forward!

I tend to come into the lab and head straight to do any experiments that I’m going to do that day as they can be up and running while I do other things, like analyse my results and plan where I’m going to go next.

Often in the morning I will have a meeting with other people in the lab. Some days people in the lab will give a talk about what they are doing, and at other times, we will meet in smaller groups of scientists and talk about any problems that we are having to see if anyone can come up with any better ideas!

My day can often get messed up as I work with placenta and will often be waiting around for people to give birth so I can go and collect it – this can sometimes make me stay a little late or come in at the weekend.

I tend to do most of my writing later in the day as the write-up area tends to be quieter, as I get easily distracted by noise, movement and cake (these tend to disappear by the end of the day).


What I'd do with the money

I’d like to produce a short video about the work done in our department.

Our department conducts ground breaking work in pregnancy related health for women. A short (about 5 mins) video about the general work that we do and some of the typical projects that are being carried on here would be uploaded to YouTube and also used when recruiting women for studies, as we often rely on their help to donate their placentas. This video could be shown to them on an iPad or some other device when nurses ask them if they would donate.

I would also like to use the video when I conduct some of my educational work as I often talk to students about the educational work that we do and it would be great to be able to show them a video from the internet.

It could also be used in recruiting new scientists and students to work within our department.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Daft. Dreamer. Opinionated.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Daft Punk.

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Win £750 in the back of a taxi that me and my friend got in.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had absolutely no idea until I finished my degree!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, I used to be very silly and mess around a lot.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I was equally split between biology and art (strange combination I know!)

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

Discover things that nobody has ever known before.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My science teacher and also reading lots of books that inspired me

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

Probably an artist/designer

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

Make me much more organised. Live longer so I can accomplish more stuff. Be able to touch type.

Tell us a joke.

Other stuff

Work photos:

I am trying to look at the effects of preventing certain genes from working that might be involved in changes to the fetus. This following image is of some cells that I have taken from the placenta and grown in culture to use in experiments: myimage2


Much of my work is involved with the effect of hormones and its effect on fetal growth:  myimage1