Niall Crawford

wow didn't think I'd make it this far folks, thanks for all the votes! Its been awesome.

Favourite Thing: Fieldwork… whether that is catching frogs in the rainforest in the middle of the night, or looking for different kinds of fish at Loch Lomond in the middle of Winter; fieldwork can be a lot of fun and a great way to see the world.



Netherlee Primary school; Williamwood High School; University of Glasgow for my Honours and Masters degrees, as well as my PhD.


School: Advanced Higher Biology B, Higher Maths A, Chemistry A, Geography A, French A, History B, English B. University: Bsc Hons degree in Zoology, Mres with merit degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology

Work History:

I worked at two supermarkets whilst I went through University, and between my degrees and other jobs. I also worked as a research assistant at the Uni before starting my PhD.

Current Job:

I am a PhD student at Glasgow University, studying tree frog adhesion.


University of Glasgow – but my work is funded by the DFG German research foundation.

Me and my work

I look at the feet of tree frogs, to see how they stick when climbing – it’s pretty cool!

I’m a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, and I do work with tree frogs. Tree frogs are several species of frog, which can jump and climb through the rainforests throughout the world. They can do so because they have specially adapted pads on the ends of their toes which allow them to stick onto many surfaces, even glass myimage1. They stick as a combination of: a) the cells on their toe pads, which have a distinctive hexagonal pattern, with deep channels between each cells myimage3, and b) a watery fluid produced by the pad to help with sticking. The fluid levels need to be just right for the frog to stick effectively – think about making a sandcastle; with too much or too little water, its difficult to get the sand to stick right, however with just the right ratio of water to sand, you can. Similarly, tree frogs are able to keep their pads at an ideal fluid level for sticking, and the channels between each cell help to control this when it is climbing. All this occurs passively, as in the frog doesn’t need to think about this, and can climb without having to think too much about it. The great thing about this way of sticking, is that they can do this many times every day, sticking and detaching their feet over and over again. If there was a piece of sticky tape which could be used over and over repeatedly, then that would be a pretty good invention. This leads on to the idea behind my research. I test the frogs’ pads under a variety of conditions – rough surfaces, wet surfaces etc. – places where modern tapes and glues often fail to work. Frogs may have adaptations to their pads which allow them to stick in these sort of conditions, and so could inspire the invention of ‘smart’ adhesives which can work in a variety of places, and have many uses.

My Typical Day

I check my frogs are all fed and OK, and then test their climbing abilities.

First thing I’ll do when I get into the University, is go to the lab to see how the frogs are. Their tanks are kept moist and warm, just like the rainforest they are from, and so I check to see that they are all happy myimage2. I’ll also feed them 3 times a week on crickets, which they love to hunt and eat. The rest of my day depends on where I am with my experiments. Either I’ll be testing the climbing abilities of the tree frogs, or I’ll be writing up work that I’ve done recently. Between all of this, I’ll be having meetings with my group, going to talks at the University and reading up on new research.

What I'd do with the money

I’d set up a display at the Glasgow Science Centre, to show people the tree frogs and their climbing ability.

The Glasgow Science Centre is a great place for young people to learn about science, and has stuff for kids of all ages (including big kids like me). With the money I’d like to set up an interactive display with posters and handouts showing their natural habitat, pictures of their pads up close, and movies of their jumping and climbing. I would take along the frogs I work with (There are 3 species, 16 frogs in total), and show people how good they are at climbing, why this is a cool thing for humans to try and replicate, and why it is important to look after their home – the rainforest.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, athletic, happy!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Beatles

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Traveled the world, where I got to ride an elephant, snorkel with a sea turtle and go white water rafting.

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

Travel to more countries, have a family and kids, and become the next David Attenborough!

What did you want to be after you left school?

Do work with animals, but more than working in a zoo.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Occasionally, but nothing too serious. Definitely not a perfect child though.

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

Getting to do work in the rainforest is pretty cool, and I’ve been lucky to do that twice now. Speaking at conferences can be scary, but worth it as well.

Tell us a joke.

Why is there no aspirin in the jungle? Cos the parrots-eat-’em-all!

Other stuff

Work photos: