Michelle Linterman

It was fun while it lasted!

Favourite Thing: Talking about my experiments with other scientists. Not only do they get excited too, but, they have interesting ideas about what the results from the experiments mean, and what to do in the future. Science is best as a team sport.



I went to high school at Paraparaumu College in New Zealand. Between 2001 and 2004, I did an undergraduate degree at Victoria University in New Zealand. Then I decided I’d like to see more of the big bad world, so I moved to Austraila for a one year research project at the Australian National University. I loved research so much that I stayed at the Australian National University for a PhD between 2006-2009. In 2009 I moved to Cambridge, UK, where I have been a scientist ever since.


Bachelor of Biomedical Science from Victoria University, Wellington. Biomedical Science Honours from the Australian National University and a PhD also from the Australian National University.

Work History:

When I was at high school I worked at BP as a fuel transfer technician, okay, I put petrol into people’s cars. While I was at University I was a checkout chick at a supermarket, a receptionist and a laboratory assistant. I was lucky enough to have a scholarship during my PhD, so I didn’t need to work. Now I work at the University of Cambridge.

Current Job:

Research Fellow


University of Cambridge and Churchill College

Me and my work

I work on white blood cells that protect your body from germs, these are the cells of your immune system. I want to know how these cells talk to each other and how that changes what happens during infection.

My Typical Day

Get a sample of tissue containing immune cells, for example blood, extract the immune cells from the sample. Then label different parts of the cells with many different fluorescent tags and run them through a machine that can detect the tags. Analyse and interpret the resulting data!

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to distrubute as many copies of the book “Your amazing immune system” as I can for £500, to schools in the UK. You can check out an online, interactive version, by copying & pasting this link into your browser

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Contains mutant cells (see work images if you want an explanation)

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Salmonella Dub

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Swimming with whale sharks in Western Australia

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

1. That I could speak Spanish fluently (I’m learning at the moment, and it is really hard!). 2. That my family lived just around the corner, and not halfway around the world. 3. That I could go on holiday to South America for 6 months.

What did you want to be after you left school?


Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, but after some time in after school detention and a shiny black eye I sorted myself out.

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

Discover a new type of white blood cell, then figure out how it develops and what it does!

Tell us a joke.

Whatever you do in life, always give 100%. Unless you are donating blood.

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is a picture of cells, mine and another scientist in the lab, James.  On these graphs every dot is a cell, and the cells have been tagged for two proteins on the cell surface, CD45RA and CD62L. Can you spot the difference between James’ blood cells and mine?


All of mine have CD45RA on their surface, but only half of James’ do.  This is because I have a mutation in the gene for CD45RA.  Now, I’m not special, about 3 in every 100 people have blood that looks like this too.  And, as far as I can tell, it does not affect the way my immune system works.

Here is a picture of a spleen filled with germinal centres.  This is what happens in your body after your get immunised, or have an infection, and is made up of your immune cells.  This is what most of my work focuses on.  The germinal centre is made of the green cells (germinal centre B cells), surrounded by the red cells (follicular B cells).


Here is a photo of what I like to do when I’m not in the lab.  This is a photo of me SCUBA diving with cheeky seals, who like to bite your flippers while you swim!