MicrobiologistHi Natalia! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your job? I am a scientist in microbiology which means that I can tell doctors whether their patient has an infection or not. I play a key role in preventing, diagnosing and controlling infections which I do by looking at samples under a very powerful microscope. I work in a hospital but you’re unlikely to see me as I work behind the scenes in a laboratory!   Why do you think maths is important? Maths is important because we use it everyday without even realising! I use maths everyday at work but also in my personal life, for example, working out how many eggs I need to make a cake or how fast I ran in a race!   How do you use maths in your job? Test tubes The organisms that I work with are super tiny and you can only see them with a microscope, so in my job I use maths to work out what size they actually are. Maths also helps me to find out which antibiotics are likely to work for a patient. We work hard to help stop the spread of flu or norovirus, too. Mental calculation is really important in my role, as I need to use maths really quickly to find out the number of red or white blood cells in a poorly patients spinal fluid – maths can save lives! During different tests, I also use a pipette (pictured) where I have to work out what volume of different liquids I need.   Do you have any advice for someone who may find some parts of maths tricky? If you find maths tricky, break it down into daily activities like my previous examples of calculating the measurements and quantities when making a cake or calculating how far you can run in a given time. This gives you lots of extra maths practice when you’re doing things like cooking. Also, practise, practise, practise!   What’s your favourite number? 14 is my favourite number because it’s the date of my birthday, the number of my first house and because it’s an even number!   If a school wanted a microbiologist to visit their school to inspire their students, what advice would you give them? To get a scientist on board at school, visit the NHS Careers website. Alternatively, you can request help from a scientist via STEM.   Thank you Natalia!  

Curriculum links

How do microbiologists use maths? Measure: If Natalia is preparing chemicals and solutions, she needs to be able to accurately find the correct volume. As you can see in the picture, she may have to use a pipette to make sure she puts exactly the right amount of liquid in: it’s a little bit like making potions! Place value: A microscope can use different lenses and each one will magnify the image by a different amount. If the lens multiplies the size of what Natalia is looking at by 100, she needs to be able to divide the size of the cell by 100 in order to get an accurate measurement. Having a good understanding of place value helps Natalia do this quickly and correctly so she doesn’t have to work it out each time. Statistics: In microbiology, there are lots of charts and graphs. Natalia may either have to create these to show her results (a bit like in science lessons), or someone else may show her a graph or chart and she has to find the relevant information from it. Algebra: Natalia may need to collect samples (little bits of material) to check what’s happening and then analyse the results. Let’s say that, for example, Natalia collects some food which has a tiny bit of mould on it. She may then want to evaluate how quickly the mould spreads on this food. She may check it at the same time every day and see that by day 3, the mould has doubled in size. By day 6, the mould may have tripled in size. Natalia could then write a formula which explains how quickly the mould grew. She could then use this to compare to other foods, or other situations.