Andy Jackson
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Behind the lab coat Q&A: Professor Chris Pepper

Andy Jackson
Posted by
06 Dec 2013

In today's Behind the lab coat Q&A we speak to Chris Pepper, a Cardiff University Professor, who has been researching the signalling pathways and molecular mechanisms that promote drug resistance in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia for 15 years.

"What's the best high and worst low about your job?"

There are lots of highs - watching students and post docs develop as scientists is always great to see but for me there is nothing better than putting on my lab coat, getting in the lab and doing an experiment that works! The lows include the endless (and seemingly meaningless) amounts of paperwork attached to the job…I often feel that I’m an administrator not a scientist!

"What would be the one thing you would say if someone said science was boring (or scientists were boring)?

I’m a self-confessed geek but I definitely don’t think that scientists are boring…maybe a bit weird, but not boring! What we do need to do a whole lot better though is explain in simple terms what it is we do to the general public...and perhaps more importantly WHY we do it. Lots of scientists are committed to their subject because they’re driven by a very human and compelling back story. We need to show that human side more and engage in the scientific debate not just with cold rationale and logic but with passion and humanity.

"How do you explain your research to people at a party?"

In truth I normally avoid talking about my research at parties - even I need a bit of time off occasionally! That said, if I’m asked (and I often am), I say that me and my team are trying to understand why people with blood cancer accumulate white blood cells in their what makes these cells survive?... and what makes them grow? By understanding these things, we’ll be able to develop better treatments.

“What do you like to do to unwind when you're not researching?”

I love to go the gym or go for a run…that is a real stress buster for me. I also really enjoy cooking, which conveniently dovetails with one of my other passions…eating!

"What one thing would you tell your 21-year old self?”

Work with people who are cleverer than you - life will be a whole lot more interesting and rewarding.

“What’s the funniest or most embarrassing thing to happen to you in the lab?”

One of the most embarrassing things that has happened to me was at an LLR open day. I gave a big build up to the group of patients and their families about how technological advances in cell sorting were transforming our ability to understand the biology of leukaemia cells…then the cell sorter just refused to work…very embarrassing!!!

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My husband has had CLL for 10 years, he was given chemotherapy after 5 years and unfortunately this damaged his heart leading to heart failure, his white blood count is rising again, (it was 179) last month. We are very worried what treatment will be available to him now that he has heart failure. Not only have we got this to worry about but last month I was also diagnosed with CLL.



I'm so, so sorry to hear about your husband and his recent heart damage and the effect that this has had as a consequence on his CLL. Has further treatment been made available to him?

I'm so sorry to hear, too, about your own diagnosis with CLL. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for you both but want you to know that we're here to help in any way that we can. Do you have friends and family that might be able to help you out with things?

A full range of support is available to you from carers and financial assistance right through to support nurses and counselling. The best people to contact in the first instance are Macmillan who have an outstanding range of services that they can provide. You can find out more information on their website: or if you want to speak to someone directly you can always give their support line a call on 0808 808 00 00>

Do stay in touch and do come back to us if Macmillan can't help you - no one should go through blood cancer alone.

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