Meet the Scientist

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Emma Yhnell

Research Fellow at Cardiff University

What scientific field do you work in?


My PhD was in neuroscience, although my undergraduate degree was in Biochemistry, so I suppose I am a biomedical scientist really.

"I really like Italian food..."

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Could you briefly explain what your job involves?


I work with people who are impacted by the neurodegenerative condition Huntington’s disease to see if there is anything that we can do to help.

In my job, I see people who are interested in completing research. At the moment the study that I am running focuses on computer game brain training. I also do lots of public engagement and outreach work.

Do you have any secret talents?


I have double joined elbows, which does make for a fun party trick!

When did you decide you wanted to work as a scientist?


I loved science at school and had great science teachers. Science was always something that I enjoyed, but I don’t think there was ever a point where I thought ‘I want to be a scientist’. I often think it is really hard for young people who feel that they have to choose a career at a young age, which just isn’t true. As long as you do something that you enjoy, then your career isn’t a career any more, it becomes your passion.

What's your favourite food?


I really like Italian food (all types of Italian food!)

What educational pathway did you take to get to where you are now?


My A-Levels were in Biology, Chemistry and Philosophy and Ethics. I went to University to do an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and then a PhD in Neuroscience. I recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Trials through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, via distance learning.

"...although it can be frustrating, it is vital."

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If you could be anyone in the world, for 24 hours, who would you be and why?


I would be David Attenborough. He is an icon for public engagement in science and has travelled the world to explore different species. He also seems a really lovely person, whom I really admire.

What was the best thing about your job?


I love the fact that I can make a real difference to people who are living with life-limiting conditions.

"I would be David Attenborough. He is an icon for public engagement in science..."

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What was the worst thing about your job?


Clinical research studies can take a long time, so the worst part is probably how long it takes to get everything ready to start a study. But, getting all of these things in place is really important, so although it can be frustrating, it is vital.

If you could take one thing with you to an island, what would it be and why?


Probably a tooth brush! I hate not having clean teeth!

Have you taken part in any research?


Research is in my job title, so I do quite a lot of it! I suppose the best part of my research journey so far has been being able to translate my research from the laboratory into the patient clinic, it has been very rewarding.

Do you have a favourite movie quote?

No! I am terrible with films!

Do you have any advice for young people who are interested in your career path?


I’d say apply for everything. You will be unsuccessful, but don’t let that put you off. Keep ploughing on. Believe in yourself and you will get there.

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