Francesca Spiga – Stress Hormones


Name: Francesca Spiga

Location: Bristol, UK

What do you do?
I am a scientist and I work in a research laboratory. I have an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and a PhD in Neuroendocrinology. My research topic is about glucocorticoid hormones.

These are substances that are released in our body from the adrenal gland (a small organ that sit on top of our kidney) to increase sugar levels in our blood, to increase muscular and cardio-vascular activity, and to fight inflammation.

The levels of glucocorticoid in our blood change during the day, for example they increase just before we wake up so that we can start our day full of energy. When we are exposed to stressful situations for a long time, our glucocorticoid levels remain high during the day. This can make us vulnerable to infections – that’s why when we are under stress during school exams, or before an important deadline, we often get a cold.

In our lab, we study how the secretion of glucocorticoids is regulated, to find out why levels of this hormone change when we are stressed or ill. We use experimental techniques in the lab to measure hormones, protein and gene expression to measure how this system works in “normal” conditions, and mathematical modelling to predict how the system can change in “abnormal” conditions.

What can I see?
My awesome research team. Our research group is made of talented and enthusiastic young students and researchers; we all come from different countries, different cultures and different scientific background, including biologists, clinicians, mathematicians and computer scientists. This diversity in background and skills is the strength of your research team.

When I’m not doing science I… cook, do yoga, play with my cats, work in my garden, make hand-cut pictures.

If you’d like to find out more about Francesca’s work you can find her on twitter @Franspi or have a look at her University of Bristol profile: