“I study the cause of #infection be it your genes or your environment and I do so through experiments that control and isolate these effects”
How did you get to where you are now?
“I always wanted to be a biologist. I studied for a BSc in Biology in Canada, and then moved to Basel, Switzerland to study a PhD in Zoology. I came to Edinburgh to take up a fellowship, and am still there. I have always been interested in challenging intellectual problems in biology, such as the benefits of sexual reproduction.”
What is your proudest work-related moment to date?
“I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2006. It was the first time a fellowship was awarded to an evolutionary biologist”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Back in Canada, I worked on a production line making refrigerators. My job was to spray the refrigerator tubes with an insulator. I was also a brick-layer for a while, which I did not enjoy, but it wasn’t as bad as insulating tubes!”
If you had left academia in a parallel universe, what job would you be doing instead?
Apart from Cardiff (or Wales), where is the best place you have ever travelled for work?
“I once gave a talk in Dublin beneath the skeleton of a whale. I have also carried out fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic which involved flying around in a helicopter, landing on lakes and taking samples of zooplankton. As it was in polar bear country I was given a gun and a card telling me where to shoot the bear if I was attacked. Luckily, the only ones I saw were from the helicopter. We also saw whales, an arctic wolf, an arctic hare, caribou and Arctic char, which were delicious. I also taught on a field course in Jamaica, where they filmed Jurassic Park.”
What’s your favourite parasite?
“The chest-buster in Alien”
If you had to be infected with a parasite what would you pick?
“I’d be a snail infected with a trematode that made me gigantic and scare all the other snails. Although I’m not so keen on the chemical castration part!”
What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
“World War II, in particular, Operation Barbarosa”
What’s your favourite type of cheese?
“Gorgonzola, but if I could only eat one type of cheese for the rest of my life, it would be parmesan.”
To find about more about Professor Tom Little’s research at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Edinburgh University have a look at his website: http://littlelab.bio.ed.ac.uk/page18/page6/page6.html