Harriet Groom

Sleepy after staying up until 1am to count my cells!

Favourite Thing: I love to think of a question/problem and figure out the best way to answer it. It’s very satisfying when you design an experiment and then you find out something that no one else knows.



Colchester County High School for Girls 1994-2001, University of Cambridge 2001-9


BA, MSci, PhD

Work History:

MRC National Institute for Medical Research

Current Job:

Career Development Fellow (postdoc)


Medical Research Council

Me and my work

I look at the way viruses interact with cells in your body: both how the virus uses the cell and how the cell tries to get rid of the virus.

At school I really enjoyed science and so I chose to do separate sciences at GCSE.  I wanted to carry on with Biology and potentially do science at university so I did Biology, Chemistry, Maths and also German and General Studies at A level.

I did my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences , which meant that I did a wide range of subjects and learnt about things from molecules that send messages in plants to what happens when a virus infects a cell.  In my last year, I specialised in Biochemistry looking at subjests such as cancer and control of genes.

In my final year and then during my masters I did two researh projects in labs.  The first looked at the way a particular group of genes were regulated.  The second looked at the genome of the virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).  This started my interest in viruses.

After a short break, I started my PhD working on one of the proteins in HIV.  After 3 years in Cambridge, I then moved to London to work in Kate Bishop’s lab myimage3 at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research where I am a “postdoc”.  In my time here I have looked at a new virus linked to human disease myimage5, prostate cancer and I’m now looking at a human protein that was just found to inhibit HIV myimage4 in some cells.

As well as my research I also organise activities for other postdocs in my institute and try to explain our research to school children and other interested people.

Outside of work I love comedy, music and I am very busy at the moment as I am getting married on Saturday – eek!

My Typical Day

As lots of people say, there is no typical day in science. That’s one of the reason’s it’s so good!

My normal day usually involves some of this

  • looking after my cells
  • experiments
  • keeping a record of my results
  • trying to figure out what the results of my experiments mean
  • using the results to plan the next experiment!
  • asking people for help
  • helping other people

And sometimes:

  • writing presentations to show my data to other scientists
  • putting my results together to publish in a journal (scientific magasine)
  • helping journals decide what data to publish
  • having meetings to organise events at my institute
  • teaching students or visitors
  • going to seminars or days out to network with other scientists

and occasionally:

  • going to scientific conferences in the UK or abroad to talk about our work
  • finding out how decisions about science are made by the government myimage2
  • Talking to schools about the science we do at the institute


What I'd do with the money

I’d like to use the money to help students meet real scientists and learn more about how to ask questions!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

small, hard-working, geek!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

one of my favourite bands is Muse

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I love to travel and dancing at my friend’s wedding in Calcutta was one of the most fun times of my life

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

More time, more time and more time!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I didn’t have a specific job in mind but wanted to make a difference somehow…

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I was a bit of a geek at school (I still am!) so didn’t get into trouble much.

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

I love teaching people whether it’s showing someone new in the lab how to do something, or explaining my PhD to my mum who never did biology.

Tell us a joke.

Geeky joke alert: Two atoms are sitting in a bar, one says to the other “Oh no! I think I’ve lost an electron!”. The other says “Are you sure” and it replies “Yes, I’m positive!”…groan!

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is a picture of people in my lab myimage3 and we work in this building myimage8, which used to look like this 60 years ago myimage6 and you may recognise from Batman Begins! myimage7.