Kate Patterson

Yaay. Thanks for voting everyone! I've done some awesome learning from you all in the past 2 weeks - hope you've had fun too :)

Favourite Thing: Science as Art. Science can actually be really beautiful and pictures help make complicated science more understandable.



Newport Primary, Mackellar and Queenwood


Sydney University – Veterinary Science then NSW Uni – PhD in molecular biology – Cancer Research

Work History:

Fruit market on checkouts, Medical Receptionist, Lots of Vet hospitals and at Sydney University teaching hospital in Camden, NSW


Garvan Institute of Medical Research and MediPics and Prose (Visual Science Communications)

Current Job:

I communicate science visually – mainly about “epigenetics”

Me and my work

We do cancer research and we are trying to work out why the genetics and ‘epi’genetics of cells goes wrong to form cancer.

While “genetics” is about your DNA and your genetic code, “epigenetics” is about how that code is read by your cells. Scientists now know that epigenetics can be affected by your diet, and even your grandmother’s diet! It also goes wrong in cancer, which is mainly what we work on. myimage2 Epigenetics can cause some of your genes to turn off – like the lights in a building, sometimes only one room is dark but other times whole floors may have the lights turned off.


My job is to communicate research results about epigenetics. That might be to other scientists, to the general public or to science students. Most of the time I make illustrations and diagrams to show how epigenetics works but I also get to write about it.


In my spare time, I also create illustrations for veterinarians, doctors and scientists like sketches of body parts for surgery diagrams and computer generated diagrams and flow charts. You can see some examples here and also on my website

My Typical Day

I talk ALOT to other scientists, mainly about epigenetics, so I can then help to put their science into words and pictures.

I spend probably 3/4 of my day at my computer, because that’s where I make the pictures and diagrams for the epigenetics laboratory I work with. I also use my computer to research what other labs have found out about epigenetics because that often helps us with our own work. The other 1/4 of my day is spent talking to scientists, and we have “LabChat” once a week where, for two hours, scientists in the lab share what work they have been doing for the past few weeks. This is a great time to troubleshoot experiments and to celebrate any achievements – like getting a scientific paper published.

What I'd do with the money

I would use the money to make a cool poster to print and post out to schools. You tell me what you’d like the poster to show! Like: what your genes look like and what epigenetics looks like in your cells.

Even with the most powerful microscope, the molecules and proteins within your cells are way too small to see. If we could see them, we would understand much more about what they are doing and how they work to keep us alive. Scientists have worked out what some of these molecules look like and I am now learning how to make pictures and animations of these molecules, to show what actually goes on within a living cell. It’s amazing to think that in every cell, there is 2m of DNA packed in! So, how does the cell do that!?


If I had $1000 I would make an artwork showing what these molecules, and DNA actually look like and how 2m of DNA is stuffed into every cell. I would print the posters and send them to schools to display in science classrooms. OR: If DNA is not your thing, you tell me what science artwork you want to have on your classroom wall! 


This picture shows DNA (orange) wrapping around special proteins (Blue and green) within the cell.


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious | Happy | Sporty

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I oscillate, but currently Angus and Julia Stone – great to listen to while working, and because they’re local and went to my primary school!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Helicopter mustering wild Brahman cows in the Northern Territory

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

1) Clone myself so I could have more time for work and play 2) Become a finalist in the archibald prize 4) Be better at maths and statistics ;)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A Vet

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes. I would sneak off to the art room to work on my major works when I was meant to be in the library studying.

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

I tried to make a vaccine for SARS – it was cool to work on something that might help millions of people.

Tell us a joke.

What’s a pirate’s favourite amino acid? “Aaaaaarginine”