Audra Benjamin

Parting is such sweet sorrow! All the best to Justin and Fiona!

Favourite Thing: I love that science is full of surprises and just when you think you found the answer, you discover there are more questions.



1988 – 1990 San Fernando Technical Institute; 1986 – 1988 Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive; 1984 – 1986 San Fernando Senior Comprehensive


2000 – 2009 St George’s, University of London PhD Physiology, 1991 – 1995 University of Greenwich BSc (Honours) Biochemistry

Work History:

University College London


St George’s, University of London

Current Job:

Research Assistant

Me and my work

I look at how natural substances in lung cells cause the lungs to absorbs liquid after birth.

Lungs are amazing and unique organs, as a baby in the womb the lungs  produce liquid and this helps form the air sacs. At birth all the liquid must be cleared to allow breathing and this is done by the lungs absorbing the liquid. A chemical called adrenaline increases  at birth and this helps clear the lungs of  liquid. In the cell membrane of the lung cells, there are holes called channels which allow sodium to pass into the cell and there are pumps which takes sodium out of the cell. I investigate chemicals within the cells that controls whether the sodium channels are in the cell membrane or not and whether they are open or closed.

Science is like a building, there are foundations that nobody sees but without them the building will fall down. My work is like the foundations on which other scientist will build on and be able to help babies and adults whose lungs aren’t working properly.


My Typical Day

Check emails; go to the lab and put liquid and drugs in lungs, collect samples of the liquid, analyse them; check emails.

I am usually awake by 6am; I get the kids ready and packed off to school and nursery. When I arrive into the office I check email and make sure there is nothing urgent that needs to be dealt with. The technician usually goes to the lab before me to get everything ready. I go to the lab and with the technician we operate on the animal which allows us to pass liquid through the blood vessel in the lungs. We then put liquid into the lungs with different chemicals depending on what we are looking at. Over the next few hours we take samples of the liquid in the lungs and sometimes add other chemicals. Once we’ve taken enough samples we analyse them using spectrophotometry, a technique where chemicals in the liquid absorb light at different wavelengths. This tells me whether the lungs are absorbing the liquid and how fast.

After we’ve done about 4 experiments I collect all the data and see what pattern is there; are all the experiments doing the same thing? I’ll then need to write up the experiments and discuss my finding with my boss and decide what the next series of experiments might be. Somedays I have meetings with other scientist so that I can find out what they are doing and we work out how I can help them or how they can help me to do more research.

I leave work about 4.30pm to collect the kids and I go to bed between 10pm and 11pm.

What I'd do with the money

I would like to give pupils the opportunity to spend time in a lab and experience research science first hand.

There’s nothing like seeing science in action, so I’d get a group to come to my university and work with scientists. I’d also like to go into a local primary school to get some younger kids into science.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Relaxed, Loyal, Determined

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Whitewater rafting down the Colorado River

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

More time and more money to research anything I wanted to and discover something that changed the world for the better.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Become a vet or a doctor

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I left school without permission when I was in Year 5

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

Being involved in finding a new ion channel in the lung.

Tell us a joke.

Bad joke alert! Where does a fish put his money? In a river bank. I did warn you!