Danna Gifford

NOooo gutted to be evicted--good luck to Daniela and Jonny

Favourite Thing: My favourite thing to do in science is talk about ideas and experiments with other people. I’ve been lucky to meet so many people from all parts of the world!



Cairine Wilson Secondary School (?2000-2004); University of Ottawa (?2004-2010); University of Oxford (UK 2010-2014)


Honours BSc (Biology and Statistics), MSc (Biology), DPhil (Zoology)

Work History:

Wageningen University (NL), University of Oxford (UK), University of Manchester (UK)

Current Job:

Research Associate


Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester

About Me

I am a Canadian evolutionary biologist living and working in the wonderful city of Manchester

I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, but in 2010, I decided to leave home to study and see more of the world.  I first moved to the Netherlands, and later that same year to the UK, to study at the University of Oxford.

Earlier this year, I moved across the country to start a new job at the University of Manchester, which has been really great so far!  I love cycling ? and horseback riding, and also enjoy playing trombone, hiking, and playing football with my friends.  I’m also a big sci-fi fan, and have seen every single episode of Star Trek ever made.

My Work

I study how bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance by doing experiments in the lab and analysing DNA sequences with computers

I am an evolutionary biologist who does experiments with bacteria to understand how they evolve–especially in response to antibiotics.  In the lab, I grow bacteria (on purpose!) in different conditions to see how they evolve when their environment changes.  I also use computers to study how the DNA of bacteria changes as they evolve, an area of science called bioinformatics.

My Typical Day

My typical day is a mix of working in the lab, analysing data, and learning about new research. The variety certainly keeps things interesting!

A typical day for me involves a nice mix of activities: lab work, analysing data on the computer, writing about research and reading about others’ research.

I also like to keep up-to-date on what other research groups are doing by following my peers on social media (that’s Twitter and Facebook), which lets me keep in touch with people across the globe.

A few times a week, I will also meet with other researchers to help each other with ideas or problems, or listen to a visiting guest give a lecture on the newest results from his or her lab.

What I'd do with the money

Take my bacteria on the road—doing antibiotic resistance experiments with pupils in schools

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

curious, determined, Canadian?

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Hard to say as it changes minute by minute. Right now I’m pretty impressed with Adele’s vocal ability

What's your favourite food?

Ginger & rhubarb ice cream ?

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Climbing a glacier in Iceland and looking down into a super deep crevasse in the ice (wonder what bacteria are down there…)

What did you want to be after you left school?

I really wasn’t sure!—I think it’s OK not to be 100% sure when you finish school. I had great mentors at uni who helped me figure out I wanted to be a biologist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I got in troube once for trying to help a friend being bullied (always go to your teacher first!)

What was your favourite subject at school?

Music ? (lots of scientists are also secretly musicians)

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

Helped to understand how many different species of bacteria can evolve resistance

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My grampa, who showed me a lot about the natural world when I was a child

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A linguist, as I love languages and would like to study how they evolve, too

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

loads of ? money ? (to spend on cool research), more ⌛ hours in the day (for more research), and a robot ? that I can control with my mind (for resea–well you get the picture!)

Tell us a joke.

Why are bacteria terrible at maths? Because to them, division and multiplication are the same thing!

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is the building I work in!


Here I am doing an experiment to make bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance on purpose to understand how it happens—don’t worry, we don’t let them out of the lab!


Each one of the circular wells contains about a billion bacteria, of which only a very small number are resistant.


Here are the results of an experiment: the areas where there is a solid ‘blob’ of bacterial cells tells us that the bacteria have become resistant


This is my desk, where I analyse data and write papers—sorry it’s sooo messy ?


And here is the view out my window (much nicer)