Primary School: Sao Miguel, Lisbon, Portugal; Secondary School: Lumiar, Lisbon, Portugal; BSc+MSc: Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal; PhD: Imperial College London, UK
BSc, MSc, PhD
All my work has involved used Physics to understand more about diseases and help treat them. I have made images of the brain of premature babies, shone red light into people’s brains and now treat virtual hearts with my computer.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
King’s College London
Favourite thing to do in my job: Learning about things I knew nothing about before!
I am a fairly typical Portuguese girl, mad about physics, music, books, travelling.
I live in London with my husband and two amazing little people: Sofia and Daniel. We have lots of fun together! We get to spend lots of time playing (Lego is my favourite!), drawing, singing and visiting cool places like zoos and museums. I love listening to music from around the world, eating unusual food and exploring London on foot and public transport.
I use the laws of Physics and big, fast computers to understand how the heart becomes ill and how we can treat it.
The heart does not go “toc toc toc” regularly for some people with heart diseases. Instead, it beats in a very uncoordinated way and therefore cannot pump blood to the rest of the body as well as it should.
Using Physics and Maths, I have created a virtual model of the heart in my computer to study these diseases. I first do bad things to it (like giving it electrical shocks or scarring it) to try to make it ill. I then try to treat this heart in my computer: I give it virtual drugs or more electrical shocks to try to make it better.
This way we don’t have to use treatments that don’t work in real people and potentially make them feel worse.
My Typical Day
I spend a lot of time with my computer: writing computer programmes (which are a bit like computer games) and then playing them.
I always start my day with a big coffee. I then sit down to look at the computer programs that I left running at a super-computer overnight. I watch the videos of what happened to my virtual heart (did it get better with the new thing I tried to do it?). If it doesn’t do what I was expecting, I need to think hard about what is going on and try to find a better way to treat the heart. This involves drinking more coffee, creating more computer programs and playing them again.
I also read a lot of small books and texts in scientific magazines about what other people that also try to treat heart diseases with computers have discovered. That gives me ideas for other ways to try to treat the virtual heart! Sometimes I discover something very cool. I check everything very carefully to make sure I did not make any mistakes and sometimes write a little text of my own for a scientific magazine so that everybody who is interested can find out what I discovered!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would make a “treat the heart disease” computer game that everyone could play on their phones or computers to help understand how to cure heart disease.
I would make a computer game where the player would have to create little holes in the heart to try to stop the heart’s disease. (This is similar to something doctors do to treat hearts called “catheter ablation”.) I would make videos of the games being played to see how the successful players managed to cure the disease to try and learn from them.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Stubborn, impulsive, caring.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I found ways to help doctors make better images of the brains of very small babies.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I just wanted to continue to learn more exciting things!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I got kicked out of nap time in nursery. I didn’t want to sleep and instead went around the room opening other children’s eyes with my fingers, saying “Don’t sleep! Talk to me instead.”
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A doctor, a teacher, a writer, a professional traveller
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Toumani Diabate (looking him up: he plays an amazing instrument called kora)
What's your favourite food?
Choco… (guess the rest)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I spent a week hiking around the south of Japan: ate flying fish and raw horse, climbed to the edge of an active volcano and saw baby turtles…
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would like to: 1) discover something amazing at work that would let me help a lot of people with heart disease; that each day was twice as long so that I could spend more time playing with my children; 3) a fairy to always do boring housework for me.
Tell us a joke.
Why did the scarecrow get promoted? He was out-standing in the field!