Carmen Denman

Thank you for voting for me! Stay keen on science!

Favourite Thing: I’m extremely experienced at counting lots of tiny glowing things for hours on end on a microscope.



Oregon State University (USA) 2004-2009. University of Exeter (UK) 2009-2012.


BSc (Hons), PhD

Work History:

I’ve worked in science in USA, Bermuda, Wales, and England. In a biotech company, academic labs, at sea, lots of variety! During school I worked in a clothes shop. I also was in pageants to win money for school and was Miss Mt. Hood and Miss Multnomah County.

Current Job:

Post-doctoral researcher


London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Me and my work

I use E.coli to make vaccines

I have always been fascinated by medicine and disease. Bacteria that live in the environment and are medically important are my specialty- we tend to call these ‘opportunistic pathogens’ meaning they are harmless out and about in the environment, but when we humans come in contact with them they can make us ill.

As a molecular microbiologist, I am interested in the very detailed and intricate mechanisms of adaptation in bacteria – especially how bacteria make us ill and causes disease. In 2013, I completed my PhD at the University of Exeter. My PhD revolved around cystic fibrosis respiratory pathogens studying what is in a sticky sugary substances excreted by the bacteria (looked like mucous!). I studied biofilms, adhesion, and even used mass spectrometry and fluorescent flow cytometry! These are exciting techniques that give a lot of information when used in an experiment.

I am no longer a student but I am a post-doctoral researcher. This means I am carrying out research in the laboratory, as well as being an academic tutor for Masters’ students and overseeing some research projects. My research now is making vaccines using protein-glycan coupling technology (PGCT) in E. coli. I am currently focused on using glycoengineering tools to develope subunit vaccines to protect against three interesting diseases all three of these diseases are capable of making people very ill or even killing – so we must study the bacteria that cause the disease to try to find the best way to make good vaccines to protect people! Overall, although antibiotics are good for treating disease, the best strategy is to prevent anyone getting ill in the first place – by using a vaccine!

My Typical Day

Grow some bacteria, then answer emails and eat breakfast at my desk, back to the lab for some experiements, maybe a lunch meeting, and the rest of the day in the laboratory or doing some computer work! It varies.

Each day is completely full. I leave my house at 6:30 a.m., commute on the train (free wi-fi means I can catch up on emails on the train) and arrive for 8:15 at work. I go strait into the laboratory to start bacteria growing, make growth media and sterilize it, and set up experiments. I will have made a week long plan so I know overall what I am going to accomplish that week and for each day. Some experiment take days to set up, others only hours. I go to my computer to read emails while I eat my breakfast! The days go by very quickly as there is always so much to do, and I could be juggling meetings, experiments and grabbing a bite to each between 11-4. I try to wrap things up in the lab by half four, and then either go to the gym or catch my train home. A day in a scientific laboratory is NEVER dull, no doubt many new things learned everyday. It is tiring, and sometimes discouraging, but overall so enjoyable. Using your brain-power to try to figure out what make bacteria tick is a pretty exciting challenge to face every day.

What I'd do with the money

Train journeys to visit schools as a science STEM ambassador- I might even visit yours!

Working in the lab and hanging out with folks who are super brainy and serious about their work is wonderfully stimulating – but it is an invigorating and refreshing break to get to participate in science outreach and share my enthusiasm about my research with young people. I am an active STEM ambassador in London and would use any money to fund trips and activities to London area schools to spread the science. Who knows, vote for me and I might turn up at YOUR school ready to talk about how cool science is.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Bubbly, Optimistic, Hardworking

Who is your favourite singer or band?

What's your favourite food?

Just go back from a trip to Japan. The food was AMAZING; Beautiful and delicious and varied.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Science is always more fun in the water- studying marine bacteria in Bermuda.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A medical doctor

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I like to talk a lot so I was always running late, which would get me detention on a regular basis.

What was your favourite subject at school?

English. I’m a total Jane Austen-ite.

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

Moving from Oregon to Bermuda to study microbial oceanography opened a lot of doors for me.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I wanted a job that when I woke up everyday I wanted to go to, and a job that helped people.

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

Medical doctor – healing people! Or maybe a chef. I like feeding people too.

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

1. Unlimited supply of Cheetos (tasty American snack!) 2. Free trips for life to go home to the USA to visit my family 3. a golden retriever puppy

Tell us a joke.

Knock knock. Who’s there? Nacho. Nacho who? Nacho cheese.

Other stuff

Work photos:

myimage1 a big broth flask waiting to grow some E.coli!

myimage2 taking selfies in the lab is a must during long experiments

myimage5 sometimes experiments don’t work and you are left with blank gels…

myimage6 time for some protein purifications

myimage7 proudest day, PhD graduation! University of Exeter!