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5 minutes with The Great British Bake Off's Syabira Yusoff

Syabira Yusoff is a cardiovascular research associate and a contestant on The Great British Bake Off 2022. We took five minutes to find out about her career and her love of baking…

Syabira Yusoff

Tell us about your background and career up to this point?

I studied a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science in Malaysia. After my degree, I worked as an agronomist in a plant breeding company in Malaysia called Green World Genetics. To satisfy my curiosity, I decided to do a PhD in genetics to understand what is going on inside the plants. I secured a PhD position in 2013 in the Plant Science Department of University of Leicester. There, I fell in love with the bioinformatics field. To broaden my research area for my future dream job as a bioinformatician, I secured a position as a postdoc in cardiac surgery research team at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester. Then, in 2019, I came to the Cardiovascular department at King’s. I didn’t find the jump from plant to human medicine too difficult because the skills are adaptable and transferrable, but I did enjoy the steep learning curve. Now, I’m a Cardiovascular research associate, and my speciality is vascular science signalling. My job is half lab work and half on the bioinformatics side.

What’s a normal day for you like?

I commute into work by train. Typically, If I’m doing experiments, I’ll do the tissue culture straight away and then complete my lab work. Any free time in the afternoon will be dedicated for data analysis. Some days, I only work on data analysis for any omics data generated within the lab.

What are you working on?

My main focus is to investigate the epigenetic regulation of vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification and ageing. I am also interested to understand the disease progression in cardiovascular disease related to ageing. Using multiomics approach, I’m trying to dissect important gene regulation and its pathways to find novel therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease.

What’s your favourite thing about working at King’s?

I love my colleagues – everyone in the department is so friendly and there is lots of diversity in the department.

Tell us about your love for baking?

I found that writing my PhD was a lonely process, especially because I’d moved from Malaysia to England. One of my most treasured memories was eating red velvet cake with my friends before I flew to England. One day, I was homesick so I tried to recreate the cake. I was so impressed with the result and continued baking! Baking is a therapy for me when I find it difficult to switch off from work. Baking, as well as gaming, has been such a help.

How do you find time to bake alongside your job?

It is all about time management. At work I focus on my tasks and what I need to get done that day. All my baking ideas or practise will be done before work. When I was preparing for Bake Off, I was developing recipes at 5am, and then I’d get on the train and look at Instagram and Pinterest for ideas. Once I got home, I’d bake. It was exhausting but it was so much fun.

Syabira Yusoff (2)

Why did you decide to apply for Bake Off?

Two years ago, I was watching Bake Off with my boyfriend. They were making brownies, and I said to myself “I can make brownies, so I could do Bake Off as well!”. Unfortunately, that particular year, the application had already closed so I had a year to learn how to make bread and pies, because of course Bake Off is more than just cake. Until a year ago, I’d only ever made cake. But I’m a very quick learner and very dedicated.

I found out I was going to be on Bake Off in the lab, so even though I was thrilled I couldn’t scream. It was so surreal. My colleagues weren’t surprised when they found out I was on Bake Off. They said they knew I could make it. They’re my guinea pigs, and I always bringing in cakes and biscuits with random flavours for them.

What do you do outside of academia?

I liked to play ultimate frisbee after work when I lived in Leicester. Here, I watch movies and play video game Hell Let Loose, a WWII simulation game since the lockdown. I’ve also practising new bioinformatics skills such as machine learning.

Quick fire:

Cakes or pastry?


Paul or Prue?


Go to bake?

Swiss rolls

Favourite scientist?

Rosalind Franklin

Netflix recommendation?

Stranger Things

What’s harder – technical challenge or defending your thesis?

Technical challenge, I loved doing my viva!

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