Waqar Ahmed

The more questions you ask, the more you will know. Science is useless without questions! :)

Favourite Thing: Working with a Mass Spectrometer.



St Annes Junior & Infant School, Clifton Comprehensive School, Thomas Rotherham College, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Manchester


BSc Biomedical Sciences, MSc Pharmacology

Work History:

Parexel International, Surrey Clinical Research Centre

Current Job:

Early Stage Researcher


University of Manchester and Royal Philips B.V.

About Me

Helping to advance human knowledge and make our earth a more fun place to live

I’m from Sheffield, and I carry out research at the University of Manchester. As part of my research, I work with Philips – you know, the company that makes electronics. Did you know they co-invented the CD? If you don’t know what a CD is, ask your mum and dad!

At the moment, I live with my wife in Eindhoven, a small town in The Netherlands. In fact, its one hour away from the Belgian and German Border. I can speak some Dutch, but please don’t ask me to do this!

We don’t have any pets, although the neighbours cat comes over often to sniff around our flat.

My Work

Finding out if someone has an infection from taking a sample of their breath

Breath has been used to diagnose diseases since the ancient Greeks. They used to smell your breath, and if it smelt like urine, then they said you had Diabetes. This method wasn’t really accurate. Nowadays we can accurately measure chemicals in breath.

Breath contains lots of chemicals. They are produced by our body, called metabolites, and also can come from the environment. Metabolites can also be found in blood and urine.

Research in finding specific chemicals in people’s breath has been very popular. It’s a little more complicated than smelling breath like the ancient Greeks, we let machines and sensors do it now. We can tell what you had for dinner, if you had any medicine, and nowadays, we can find out if someone has an infection or disease.

My Typical Day

Wake up, eat, do some science, eat, do more science, eat, watch tv, read, sleep.

What I'd do with the money

Split the costs between the five scientists so we can all carry out our activities

  1. Split the prize money
  2. I will get a group of school children to come to Manchester, and I will give them a tour around the Science Museum and the University of Manchester Science laboratories
  3. If I have some money left, I want to buy an old table, and a periodic table poster. Then stick them together to make a period periodic table table.


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Proactive, opportunistic, organised

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Chase and Status, The Weeknd, Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, Coldplay, John Newman.

What's your favourite food?

My favourite meal is a gourmet bag of fish and chips. I REALLY miss it. They don’t have any chippies here. Although they do eat raw herring fish. I also like Mexican and Indian food, but it never agrees with my stomach…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Ride a bike from London to Paris. With friends. Without proper directions. In October.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I couldn’t decide at that stage. I guess I liked how engines worked.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No, I stayed out of trouble

What was your favourite subject at school?

Resistant Materials class

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

Extracting peptides from scorpion venom

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Michael Faraday, David Attenborough

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

A boring normal human being

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

To time travel, to have a unlimited supply of doritos, and talk to animals. Preferably all the the same time.

Tell us a joke.

How do cows do mathematics? They use a cow-culator… Whats is a Fly without wings? A Walk… What goes up when the rain comes down? Umbrella

Other stuff

Work photos:



This is called a ‘sorbent tube’. The breath is blown through this tube, and some the chemicals like alkanes and aldehydes are trapped inside when the air passes through it. You need a sampler and a face mask to breath into it.





This is the sampler and bag we use. We blow into the bag, and the sampler, which is just a pump, blows the breath through the tube.




That’s Craig, our Research Technician giving us a breath sample into the bag. Don’t mind me behind him. I was bored waiting for him to finish filling up a bag with breath. That’s not my hand.





This is the big machine we use for measuring breath samples.



This is what the machine gives out. Its called a Chromatogram. Each sharp peak is a chemical. The higher the peak, the more of that chemical there is in the sample. You can see there’s lots of chemicals in breath! How many peaks can you count?




This is the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (part of the University of Manchester) from the inside. It looks like a modern Hogwarts! None of the bridges or steps can move though.



This is the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology from the outside. Looks cool!




This is my new place of work in the Netherlands. I am now working here for 2 years, for Philips. They are interested in making a small electronic sensor so we don’t need a big machine to look at breath chemicals.




They really like riding bikes in the Netherlands. Its safer, quieter and healthier than driving around in a car. So many bikes!