Helen Fletcher

bye, bye and good luck with your science everyone!!

Favourite Thing: Travel to Africa to meet the scientists we work with over there



Ketley Town Junior (Telford) 1978-82; Malinslee Primary 1982 (Telford); Charlton Comprehensive School 1982-87 (Telford); New College 6th Form 1987-89 (Telford)


From University of Leeds a BSc in Medical Microbiology and a PhD developing a diagnostic test for fungal infections in cancer patients.

Work History:

Boots the Chemist, Telford (Saturday job 1987-1991), The Original Oak Pub, Leeds (evening job 1992), University of Leeds (Research Assistant 1994), University College London (Postdoctoral Research Fellow 1999-2002))


University of Oxford

Current Job:

Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Me and my work

I read and write scientific papers on tuberculosis (TB) vaccines and help our students design their experiments and analyse their results


 I describe myself as curious because I think curious people make good scientists.  Curious people enjoy learning and are open to new ideas and experiences.   If you are curious about science you will be a successful student.  To be a successful scientist, you also need to be questioning.  Be open to new ideas but also question those ideas.  

I have also described myself as “busy” becuase I am a full-time scientist and a full-time mum to Gus and Florence myimage1.  

They are gorgeous, cheeky and fun.  I came back to work in April 2011 after 6 months of maternity leave with Florence.

I work at the University of Oxford in the Jenner Institute which is located on the Churchill Hospital site in Headington.  Our institute makes vaccines for TB, malaria, HIV and flu.  I work for the group that makes and tests new vaccines for TB. Here is a video link on you tube where my boss (Helen McShane) and I are talking about the work we do.  I’m the one in the lab coat! =apGpcxsQ9dM&playnext=1&list=P L4B8570A2538F5C2E

For more information on our work on TB vaccines and on the other work we do at the Jenner Institue visit;

This link will take you to some of the papers I have published;


See the paper at the bottom on the Hungarian mummies? My first job after getting my PhD was to work on these mummies to see how many of them had died of TB disease.  myimage2 It was this work that got me interested in doing something about the modern day TB epedemic in Africa.



My Typical Day

Writing grants, writing papers, analysing data, talking to students

Tuesday 7th June

8.30AM: drop kids at nursery

9.00AM: Meet scientist who works on iron metabolism to discuss how iron metabloism might be important for protecting people against TB.

10.00AM: Seminar from scientist on TB and iron metabolism

11.00AM: Discuss how we might make vaccines to boost iron metabolism

12.00 noon: Meet film crew who are going to make a pod-cast of our work at Jenner Institute for the University website and guide them around the labs

1.30pm: Drive to nursery to breast feed Florence

2.00pm: Meet clinical research fellow who is travelling to Thailand for 2 years to do a research project to discuss setting up a collaboration together between Oxford and Bangkok

3.00pm: Skype teleconference with collaborators in South Africa, Florida and Montreal to discuss a paper we are writing together.

4.00pm: Help students to analyse data from experiment to look at genes expressed by our vaccines in healthy volunteers in Oxford

5.00pm: Drive to nursery to get Gus and Florence

What I'd do with the money

Vote for Africa or UK

Go to the survey below and tell me whether I should spend the money in the UK or Africa

I can use the money to come and visit schools in the UK bringing some objects from the Jenner Museum with me to talk about the history of vaccination and modern day vaccination.


My work colleagues at the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative  in South Africa mde a comic story about why TB is important and volunteering for a TB vaccine trial (below is 1 page).  Kids from one school liked the comic so much they turned it into a play.  They would like to use the £500 prize money to fund the school kids in Cape Town to perform the play at a local shopping mall and at some other schools.

see here for full copy of comic  P


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

curious, questioning, busy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Pet Shop Boys

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Scuba diving in Thailand

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

To be happy, healthy and to be able to eat chocolate without putting weight on

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to run a scientific group investigating disease outbreaks (I’m not joking!!)

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I got into trouble for being a slow eater and talking to my friends to much

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

Travelling in Africa

Tell us a joke.