Favourite Thing: To play around in the lab and try to satisfy my curiosity on how nutrition alters our responses to exercise
Wrenn School, Wellingborough
BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Science; MRes Exercise Physiology; PhD Human Nutrition and Metabolism
Assistant Professor in Human Physiology
University of Bath
I’m an Assistant Professor in Human Physiology, with research interests in Nutrition and Metabolism
I was born in the midlands to an English mother and a Spanish father. I always had an interest in sport, playing rugby union during my school years, and then taking up running, cycling and triathlon. This interest in sport led me to pursue a degree in Sport & Exercise Science and subsequently a Masters in Exercise Physiology. During this time I realised the power of exercise and nutrition for health and undertook a PhD in Human Nutrition and Metabolism under the supervision of Prof Emma Stevenson. Following this I performed a Post-doc studying human carbohydrate metabolism during exercise, before taking up my current position in the Department for Health, University of Bath.
I study how to improve health and sports performance through nutrition and exercise
From an early engagement in sport and my failure to ever be a successful athlete, I became interested in why some people are able to perform exercise better than others, and by extension, whether we can do anything about this to improve our chances of being successful in sport. This leads to my work on how nutrition can be used to support endurance performance such as long-distance cycling and running. What is interesting about physiology is that with many aspects, the systems we are trying to improve for either health or performance are similar. For example, both athletes and people with diabetes, would benefit by being able to effectively and efficiently store the carbohydrates they eat within their muscles and liver. This link, combined with a family history of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease stimulated my current interests in trying to use nutrition and exercise to improve metabolic health.
Current and recent projects include: 1) studying how different sugars affect metabolism in cyclists during and after exercise; 2) investigating when it is best to exercise in relation to food intake for health benefits (e.g. before or after breakfast); and 3) trying to understand why people seem to be able to burn different amounts of fat during exercise.
My Typical Day
Never the same: writing research papers, meeting PhD students, helping out in the lab, teaching…
I start most days by cycling up to the University (which involves tackling a 163 m high hill) relatively early and then showering and getting some breakfast at the office. After responding to a first batch of e-mails there are invariably some meeting with either other members of staff or PhD students. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is helping PhD students train in their research techniques and working together to answer interesting questions. This involves assisting in the laboratory by taking blood and tissue samples, and commenting on written work. Part of the day may also involve writing up some research and or applying for funding for the next project. Interspersed with this I also teach Human Physiology on undergraduate courses such as BSc/MSci Sport & Exercise Science, and BSc/MSci Physical Activity and Health. If I am lucky, I may be able to squeeze in a coffee meeting with collaborators to discuss exciting new ideas to work on. This mix of work keeps me on my toes and contributes to why this career is so stimulating. After the cycle home and getting some dinner, I finish off responding to the e-mails I haven’t managed to attend to during the day.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Inquisitive, Enthusiastic, Competitive
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Anything Mediterranean (particularly fish)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Participating in La Tomatina festival in Spain (tomato throwing)
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had no firm idea when I left school, I knew I was interested in Sport and Exercise, but knew I was not good enough as an athlete to make a living from participating in Sport. My parents were kind enough to support me in my decision to study a degree on the basis of it being interesting (rather than having a firm idea of a subsequent career).
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was never in major trouble, but did not apply myself at school and was more interested in sport and parties. Only when I was at university did I start to really apply myself, where I thrived on the mentality of critical thinking, and learning for the sake of learning (rather than rote learning for exams).
What was your favourite subject at school?
Biology and/or Sport Studies
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
Richard Dawkins is very stimulating and accessible.
Tell us a joke.
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloumi!