Eleni Vikeli

Favourite Thing: Connecting the dots and solving the mystery of the production of an antibiotic! I really love it when I ‘read’ the DNA of the bacteria and I match genes with functions and chemical profiles of antibiotics!



10/2013-today_PhD in John Innes Centre-University of East Anglia -Department of Molecular Microbiology, 10/2012-10/2013_ MSc Applications of Biotechnology in Agriculture, 2007-2013 Degree in Agricultural Biotechnology – equivalent to MSc in Agricultural Engineering in Agricultural University of Athens (A.U.A)


2013-Traineeship to the program “Enterprise Hubs” in Athens, granted by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs: an incubator for start-ups with a biotechnological company (development of business plan) manufacturing cosmetics with bioactive compounds of commercial importance- Marketing, Advertising, Collaboration & Support from marketing, economic advisors, Role: biotechnological part of the start-up •2012: 1st place in the «Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation” competition of The Agricultural University of Athens- 8 months project, team work, in charge of the scientific plan of the project, 2005 Participation in the Euroscola programme, Strasbourg, France

Work History:

2013 (May – August) John Innes Centre_Erasmus student working on Pseudomonas, 2012-2013(February – August) Agricultural University of Athens_Placement in the Plant morphology and physiology lab, 2010 (July-August) Agronomy lab of A.U.A._Practice on tissue culture of herbs

Current Job:

PhD in John Innes Centre-University of East Anglia -Department of Molecular Microbiology


John Innes Centre

About Me

A persistent PhD student living in Norwich and working on antibiotic discovery!

I was born and raised in Greece and particularly in Piraeus, the port of Athens.

When I was at school, I was a very good student that had absolutely no idea what to be when I grow up! I enjoyed all the courses, although most of the times, you would find me working on a project totally irrelevant( poetry, drama club, or setting up a new library scheme!). After 3 years of lyceum, the equivalent of  A-Levels here in UK, I was introduced to the possibility of science. And that was it! I passed to the Agricultural Biotechnology department of the Agricultural University of Athens and I started studying anything from Botany to Recombinant DNA! After 5 years I had a degree equivalent to a MSc and no clue of what to do next.

That’s when I applied for an Erasmus project in the John Innes Centre, in Norwich,UK and it changed my life forever. I went back to Athens for a second Master’s degree, and the last 2 years I am lucky enough to do a PhD degree in Norwich on antibiotic discovery.

Apart from science, I love baking, cooking and eating, especially if I get to cook for my friends while we are on a marathon of board games!Also, I enjoy travelling around the world and meeting new cultures and civilizations.

I am currently fluent at Greek(dah!), English, French and communicating at Spanish, but I aim to be able to speak at least 3 more languages in the next few years! Just love it when I can communicate with as many people as possible!!


My Work

Finding novel antibiotics from rare sources such as fungus growing ants

I am working with bacteria isolated from Kenyan fungus growing ants. The ants cultivate the fungus as a food source, while protecting it against infections by using the antibiotics produced by the bacteria on them.

It is an exciting but demanding project that combines genetic manipulations of the strains and extensive production lines in different media to monitor different compounds. Once we have any interesting compound, we test its action against strains that cause infections such as Candida albicans and Enterobacter aerogenes.

The challenging part after we spot a compound is to isolate adequate quantities of it, test to see if it kills the ‘bad bugs’ and match it to genome of the bacteria.


My Typical Day

Starting early in the lab and never finish on the time I was hoping to!

I usually start in the lab around 8:30-9:00 by making the list of things to do for the day. Then, I spend most of my day in the lab trying to get my bacteria to grow, prepare extractions of many litres of culture and doing bioassays against infectious microorganisms. If it is a good day, I will spend some time analyzing results in the office. If things don’t work out as planned, I will re -plan for the repeat of the experiment. Some days, I need to prepare reports of my progress and attend meetings of my group or my department.

Some of the days, might be totally different, when you will find me participating in conferences and/or outreach events and preparing workshops for schools or visitors here in the Norwich Research Park.

At the end of the day, I will check that everything is prepared for the next day, for example set up overnight cultures and order necessary ingredients and tools before heading back home.

What I'd do with the money

Set up a workshop or a campaign to address the mistaken belief that people are becoming resistant to antibiotics

Here in the John Innes Centre, we organize and take part to many outreach events , especially when it comes to raising awareness about antibiotics and the importance of tackling multi drug resistant microorganisms. I would like to arrange an one day conference and to invite students to be a part of a special assembly addressing these issues. It will be like an open chat, where students can express opinions and discuss with scientists of the field about recent developments in the field and to get rid of mistaken opinions of the public about antibiotic use and infectious diseases. It will be supplemented with activities and round table discussions between the attendees and many take home messages.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Sensitive, Stubborn, Giving

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Maroon 5

What's your favourite food?

Mousakas-the most famous greek food!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I once participated in the recording of a video-clip and didn’t stop dancing for hours

What did you want to be after you left school?

A journalist or a scientist and I chose the latter because it seemed more exciting

Were you ever in trouble at school?

I once did an April fool day prank but never found out it was me!It was one of the scariest moments at school!!

What was your favourite subject at school?

History-I just loved the long discussions and I was good at memorising dates and names

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

Sharing my science with the public and exhibiting how it works

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My biology teacher in high school

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

A chef/patissier

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

1)To be healthy forever,2)To discover antibiotics that will save millions,3)To travel around the world

Tell us a joke.

What did Gregor Mendel say when he founded genetics? Woopea!

Other stuff

Work photos:

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