Each week we put the spotlight on a PhD student at the Norwich Research Park and get them to share three songs in a desert island disc-style game: one song that captures their project (expect some very tenuous links), one song that captures their life as a PhD student and a final motivational song because – let’s face it – we all need it.

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Thom is a 3rd year PhD student in Molecular Microbiology at the John Innes Centre. He is researching the specialised metabolism of bacteria in the hopes of understanding how drug-like compounds are synthesised. He is also interested in the evolution and ecology of these pathways. Originally from Preston, Thom has also worked in London at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Government Office for Science. When not in the lab, he is most likely in the pub or round the table playing board games.

Twitter: @BoothThom


The Project Song – Killer Queen by Queen

Bacteria make all kinds of compounds to utilise as chemical weapons and there is no doubt that Streptomyces is the ‘Killer Queen.’ The diversity of Actinobacterial specialised metabolites is impressive – one might say it’s guaranteed to blow your mind… Is that tenuous enough?!”

The PhD Life Song – Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant

Let’s face it, PhD students work hard. We’ve all been in the lab at ridiculous-o’clock taking a time course, trying to finish a particularly complex protocol or scrambling to finish a report/presentation before the deadline. I feel this song really sums up that feeling of resignation, while making it seem pretty rock and roll at the same time. Also, the final verse is a nice reminder that even people who look like they’ve got it all together are still struggling with the same pressures as everyone else.”

The Motivational Song – Bad Motherf*cker by Biting Elbows

There are loads of songs I could have picked for this category. Sometimes you need a song that will show you the bright side of life. Sometimes you need a song that will improve your focus and get you in the zone. Occasionally though, you just need reminding that you’re a bad motherf*cker!”


The PhD playlist is the brainchild of Millie, whose obsession with making playlists is almost as great as her obsession with science. Follow her on twitter: @milliestanton and drop her an email if you’re interested in being featured!

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