Ollie Russell


Favourite Thing: Growing cells and investigating their DNA and protein levels- it combines lots of different disciplines!



King’s School Grantham 1999-2006


Newcastle University- Pharmacology 2006-2009

Work History:

Loads of places- my favourite was when I was a dinnerlady


Newcastle University

Current Job:

I’m a PhD student

Me and my work

Im testing compounds to see if we can change DNA expression in mitochondria to treat mitochondrial diseases

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, responsible for providing enough energy so the cell can do things like replicate or carry out its functions.

A mitochondria taken using an electron microscope


Mitochondria have their own genome (this is tiny whne compared to the amount of DNA in the nucleus) which contains enough information to make 13 proteins which are some of the proteins needed to make energy. Sometimes the mitochondrial genome can become mutated which can affect the amount of energy made for a cell. If the mutation is severe enough, this can cause a range of diseases called the mitochiondrial diseases.

Mitochondrial Diseases affect 1 in 8000 people in the UK. Although this may seem like not many, 1 in 200 people carry a mutation that can cause these diseases That means you will probably know someone with a hidden mutation in their DNA. Because mitochondria are in every cell, the diseases can affect any part of the body. However, cells that need lots of energy, such as muscle and nerves are affected much more.



My Typical Day

I grow cells and see if they stop making mutated DNA and proteins when I expose them to the compounds I’m testing and I also extract blood stem cells from patients to see how they grow.

I grow cells in our lab for a couple of days to get enough cells to do my experiments on. After 3 days I add a compound to the growth medium of the cells and leave it for 9 days.

Cell culutre in my lab looks something like this…


 The compounds that I add are in fact small pieces of DNA that should stop mutated mitochondrial protiens being made.

When the 9 days is up I kill the cells and extract their proteins and DNA. I can then see if the amount of mutated DNA has gone down and also if only good proteins that work correctly are made. I do these experiments using a range of techniques that involves PCR and using antibodies to see the proteins.

I also extract stem cells from mitochondrial disease patients blood to see if they work correctly and produce all the correct blood cells needed to be healthy.  

Alot of the work in our lab is done whilst listening to music….. here is who I listen to when im doing all my hard work! myimage2


What I'd do with the money

I would like to build a giant, working mitochondria that I could use to demonstrate how they carry out their functions.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Tall, stealthy, handy

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Travelling around the world

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

The power to be invisible, legs for arms and arms for legs, and a Petercopter

What did you want to be after you left school?

Around GCSE’s I decided to do a biology type degree, but I wasnt sure what I wanted to do

Were you ever in trouble in at school?


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

Working with dangerous chemicals and getting to do interesting experiments

Tell us a joke.