Unique Scientist: Eleanor Townsend

Time to meet Eleanor Townsend (She/her)! Eleanor is a microbiologist living in United Kingdom currently working on viruses that infect bacteria as an alternative tool to antibiotics.

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a microbiologist, I have studied a lot of different bacteria, fungi and viruses in my time so far. At the moment I am working on bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, and how we can use these to kill off bacteria instead of antibiotics. Previously, I’ve studied tuberculosis and polymicrobial biofilms.

What made you want to become a scientist?
My Dad is also a microbiologist, although in industry, but he was a big inspiration and influence! What really solidified my desire to be a microbiologist though was reading “The Strain” by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro. It starts off about these epidemiologists at the CDC trying to track down this vampire virus that starts spreading. It’s not really at all realistic because it’s sci-fi and epidemiology is quite a different job to microbiology, but it’s what first got me really intensely interested.

“I’ve found it’s just a matter of taking your time, writing things down, and being patient and kind with yourself.”

Eleanor Townsend

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I have mild dyslexia, which while it isn’t as bad as some of my family members, has still lead to some challenges in my scientific work. I find it difficult to read accurately and quickly, which makes skimming through papers difficult. I find it hard to work out calculations in my head. I’ve found it’s just a matter of taking your time, writing things down, and being patient and kind with yourself.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I do a lot of running, I compete in middle and long distance running both on and off road. Recently I got my leader in running fitness qualification which allows me to do a bit of coaching.

I really love to draw and paint as well, I like to think that if I wasn’t a scientist I’d be a painter. I really enjoy the opportunities to combine art and science, when I get to microscopy or illustrate for a paper.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish post-docs had a bit more job stability. That worries me a lot. I think it’s hard to relax and concentrate on your science when you don’t know if you’ll have a job in six months’ time.

“I really enjoy the opportunities to combine art and science, when I get to microscopy or illustrate for a paper.”

Eleanor Townsend

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Both of my parents really encouraged my interest in Science since I was small so it’s always been nice to have their support.

My A-level biology teacher Brenda was amazing and really encouraging me to keep curious and continuously expand my knowledge.
And it’s probably a cliché but Marie Curie was real proof in my early years that girls CAN do science, and do it very well.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This week I managed to get some great images of my bacteriophage and I ran personal bests in both 10k and 5 mile races.


#WomenInSTEM

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