Theresia Mina

I can't answer some questions, need to revise my bio lesson..haha

Favourite Thing: Arranging my experiment photos, linking evidence like Sherlock Holmes, brainstorming! Yeay!



Nanyang Technological University (2007-2011) in Singapore, the University of Edinburgh (2012-now)


BSc (Hons.), MSc in Reproductive Sciences (Hons.)

Work History:

Ecole Federale Polytechnique de Lausanne, Genome Institute of Singapore (A*STAR), Mechanobiology Institute @ The National University of Singapore,

Current Job:

PhD student, clinical researcher scientist, school ambassador, Tommy’s blogger, secretary of the local postgraduate society,


Prof. Rebecca Reynolds @ the British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences, the University of Edinburgh

Me and my work

I wonder what’s the effect of being obese and stressed during pregnancy to the children when they grow up, the mechanism behind it, and how best to limit what’s harmful.

My work can be summed in this cool phrase: “in utero programming“. In utero means “within the mother’s womb”. The programming, just like a computer program, is the modification of the gene to reach certain outcome. I am not looking at genetic defect, which is inherited, but rather how our genes are modified by the environmental factors during pregnancy.

When we are still within our mother’s womb, our genes are very “plastic” and therefore are quite prone to environmental disturbance. There are thousands of this harmful factors, and not all of them are well studied. I am investigating 2 major public health problems that are seemingly unrelated: obesity and mental health problem such as anxiety and depression.

Guess what, they are actually very strongly linked, but why and how exactly I have yet to find out. What’s the effect of both obesity and mother’s mood problem to the unborn baby? How does the baby thrive when he/she is born? Will he/she do well learn to walk and talk at appropriate time? Will he/she be obese in the future, or easy to be stressed? We are yet to find out…

I am currently managing a clinical research, I plan to call about 300 mothers and children across Scotland to participate in HAPPY study. I am not joking, my study is called HAPPY study 😀 You can find out more about that through my university college blog!

My Typical Day

Phoning mothers, plotting charts, spotting patterns among numbers, planning experiment, labelling saliva tubes…

I have 3 types of day: laboratory day, administrative day and clinical day. On laboratory day, I plan, prepare and execute experiment. Sometimes my protocol lasts half day, sometimes 2 days. Then I’ll take image/ map and analyse them.

On administrative day, I call mothers, give instruction to the nurses, prepare letter for GP, sign and sends letters to mothers, check my orderings, liaise with the Ethical committee because they always need to know what’s going on. And at the end of the day I pop in to my Boss office, discuss data and what we should do next.

On clinical day, I run HAPPY study in the Children’s hospital @ Edinburgh, supervise the nurses, analyse data, process blood and saliva samples, and make sure the child gets his/her little toy, crackers and juices!

What I'd do with the money

I’ll create the placenta black-box to increase people’s awareness on how amazing a placenta is in doing its job to protect a baby!

Initially I plan to do this for the Edinburgh Science Festival 2015 and I realise that I do not really have the money for this. To set up a stand, I need to pay registration fee and sponsor myself to make up this placental model, and I have no helping hands..

The model can be in the form of a physical model or a computer animation. I am not the expert in design and/or animation (I’m A Scientist!) so if I want to make it look good and comprehensible (definitely not my scribbles) I may need some helping hands from art and design students and also from a computer animator.

I can use the money to buy the materials needed to make the model and/or to help in the expenditure of any design/ animation service. Fingers crossed if the designer/ animator is generous enough, I can have the model for free and use the money to print eco-friendly information sheet to be distributed during School Open Day or Science Festival and sponsor my travel expenses. I want to visit some local schools in Edinburgh, organise a session where I can have an interactive face-to-face discussion with teenagers about pregnancy, obesity and mental health.

I want to raise more awareness and encourage young people to discuss more in an open-minded way about pregnancy, obesity, mental health and the possible effect to future generation.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

organised, meticulous and determined

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I was a big fan of Westlife when I’m younger. I like Coldplay and Adele too!

What's your favourite food?

my mum’s Chinese fried rice!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Going to fireworks party in Geneva on Saturday, hiking in Mount Rigi on Sunday and back to work on Monday morning during when I was doing summer research program in Switzerland

What did you want to be after you left school?

I thought I am going to be a housewife as my Mum used to tell me but I was wrong…

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, I encouraged the classmate to boycott a class during junior high school because the teacher was perverted!

What was your favourite subject at school?

biology, that’s why I’m now a scientist:)

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

Generating placental cells from human embryonic stem cells, I feel like crying out of excitement every time I think of it.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

my Cell Biology and Biochemistry professor. A cell is as rich and complex as Milky Way, pure magic!

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

working in NGO or charity body

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

I wish I can hold my fiancé’s hand who is now 30000 miles away, say final goodbye to my grandma who passed away last year, and I wish I can hug my parents:)

Tell us a joke.

Naomi Campbell said “Congratulation Malaria for winning Noble Prize”. That’s an epic auto-correct from your iPhone!

Other stuff

Work photos: