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Athena SWAN Gallery of SMD Women

We are speaking to a different woman in the SMD every day in March to Build a gallery of women in STEM, celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 – check for new interviews every weekday!

 

Friday 31 March 2017

Dr Suchita Nadkarni (WHRI)

I first became interested in immunology during my undergraduate degree at KCL. I was fascinated by how a cell-based system could have such an impact on organs and animal development.

Although we can compartmentalise the immune system into basics: innate and adaptive, there is huge interplay between the two. That interplay is what my research focuses on, specifically in pregnancy and cardiovascular diseases.

What makes your work rewarding?

The biggest reward being at the School of Medicine and Dentistry is that I am lucky enough to do the research that I want to do.

My greatest achievement was probably getting my PhD. Everyone who has done it, or is working on one, knows that a lot of time, effort and energy goes into such a focused area of research - it’s great training for a science career. Not just for learning techniques, but also the extreme highs and lows that we can experience in the lab when experiments work (or, more often, don’t!).

My second rewarding achievement has to be receiving my BHF fellowship. This the first step towards career independence and, while I know it will be a little daunting, I’m so excited to be responsible for the direction of my research. It’s a huge step!

Who are your role models and why?

I would say that Professor Federica Marelli-Berg is my role model. She is a BHF professor; one of the very few female BHF chairs. What makes her my role model isn’t just what she’s achieved, or the fact that she’s woman and a mother, it’s also the enthusiasm and passion she has for her research, which I find inspiring. I think it’s really important not to lose that passion as we progress up the academic ladder.

What balances your life outside work?

To anyone and everyone who is trying to become an independent researcher, I have to say do not give up! But it’s also important not to get too bogged down with work.

As a mother of a 2 year old, I have to ensure that I plan my work adequately so I don’t miss time spent with my family and also so that my work doesn’t suffer. I’m not the first researcher who is a mother, and I won’t be the last, but in my experience, I am able to balance work and family life because of a very supportive family and understanding, supportive bosses!

 

Thursday 30 March 2017

Jaya Rajamanie (Blizard)

I have been working in University Administration for the past 22 years. I began my career as an Undergraduate Registry Officer at the School of Pharmacy and then became Department Administrator at SOAS.

An exciting post as Events Manager followed; organising student recruitment events for the University of London distance learning Programme, which also allowed me to travel overseas.

Since 2009, I have been working at the Blizard Institute and from 2015 as a Centre Manager with the Centre for Genomics and Child Health, which is mainly a research based Centre.

What makes your work rewarding?

I think one of my proudest achievements is arranging a large-scale student recruitment event in Trinidad that was attended by more than 1000 local students. It was a rewarding event to organise as it led to many students enrolling for UoL distance learning courses who otherwise might not have been able to access an affordable degree from a good institution.

My Blizard post has been a varied and rewarding job. No two days are the same and I get to meet staff from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and many working on medical issues currently affecting our society.

It has allowed me to help research staff with their administrative duties so that they can spend more time on research and teaching. I also ensure that the Centre runs efficiently and my administrative colleagues and I are available to assist when needed. Knowing that I played a small part of this bigger picture is very rewarding.

Who are your role models and why?

In fact, I often look at several of the female academics and Professors whom I have worked with over the years as my professional role models. They are not only dedicated to their research and teaching but also manage to balance their home life with work.

What balances your life outside work?

I feel very fortunate to work in an environment where work-life balance is taken seriously and am grateful to the staff who are working hard to ensure that this continues to be so.

In my experience, SMD is an organisation that actively encourages staff to implement Athena Swan commitments. We try to ensure that meetings are timed appropriately to accommodate staff with childcare commitments, for example. I feel that the Medical School also have a good approach to staff development and general well-being.

Personally due to family commitments, I have been able to take on flexible working and work from home one day a week which has helped me enormously. It has provided me the opportunity to care for my family while they are unwell.

 

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Dr Sian Henson (WHRI)

Senior Lecturer in Microvascular Research, PhD

I became interested in how the immune system ages because, although lifespan has increased over the last century, these gains have not been matched by an improvement in what we call healthspan.

If we are to correct this then we need to understand the processes that cause ageing, including immune ageing.

What makes your work rewarding?

I enjoy the freedom to think about scientific problems and finding solutions to them. I study how the human immune system ages and I’ve been very fortunate to have many lovely volunteers that are willing to help with this research.

Society’s view of older people is often very negative, seeing old age and illness as synonymous. However, it’s been a great privilege to be shown that age doesn’t always have to be an issue and to share in the many exploits of my volunteers – many of whom seem to have a much more active life than my own.  

Who are your role models and why?

I have numerous role models that have changed as my career has evolved, however, Prof. Arne Akbar has to be mentioned.

I first met Arne as a post-doc while he conducted a meeting with his baby daughter in attendance, and then later I undertook a fellowship in his lab. He has always been very understanding of the need to work flexibly and has always been supportive of my career and the career of everyone coming through his lab. He’s the first person in the bar and last out at conferences but always has a gaggle of people around him discussing science. I hope some of his enthusiasm has rubbed off on me.

How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace? 

Having a child and working full time can be tough at times but you learn not to feel too guilty about being away from them by enjoying the time you do have together. If you ask my son and husband, they would complain that I’m always reading, marking or writing something.

I feel very lucky to have my parents nearby and they help massively with child care. I also have a very supportive network of friends who can be relied on to remind me its mufti day or supply me with wine. That said I feel lucky to do a job I love. 

 

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Prof. Parveen J Kumar (Blizard)

Professor of Medicine & Education. MD, DM, DSc, FRCP, FRCPE, FRCPath CBE

I am a gastroenterologist and first became interested in the field during ward rounds as Barts student, with a dynamic new consultant, Dr Dawson (later Sir Anthony Dawson).

Following my initial medical posts, I trained as a gastroenterologist and did my research with him and Dr Michael Clark. This research base has been incredibly useful throughout my career. I pursued a clinical academic career and became a Professor/consultant at Barts and Homerton Hospitals, and later the Royal London.

What makes your work rewarding?

The most rewarding aspect of my job in the School of medicine has been teaching our students. It is a two-way learning exercise as they often ask difficult questions that one has never thought about! We are extremely lucky to be practising medicine here as our geography is rich in the diversity of diseases as well as culture.

The achievement I am most proud of is co-writing and co-editing “Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine”, now in its 9th edition and 2017 is the 30th anniversary of the first edition. It has been a lifetime work and the book is now used by many medical schools across the world, reaching several million students and doctors. My co-editor and I have been invited to lecture and teach in many schools abroad, which has been very rewarding. We have seen different diseases, practices of medicine and methods of medical education.

Outside the medical school and my NHS job, I have been fortunate to lead several national organisations. I have chaired the Medicines Commission UK, been President of the BMA, President of the Royal Society of Medicine, and vice President of the Royal College of Physicians. I have held non-executive posts with NICE andat an acute hospital Trust, and have chaired many national and local committees.

I am currently the President of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, which looks after doctors and their families when they are in trouble. I am also the President of Medical Women’s Federation, which is in its 100th anniversary this year. It is amazing to think that it is now 100 years since women started fighting to earn their place in the medical profession. We still have much to do to get them into the higher grades.

Who are your role models and why?

My role models, apart from the ‘ancient Greats’, have been many. These have been mainly male as there were very few senior medical women in my time. Thankfully things have now changed!

None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and friends.

 

Monday 27 March 2017

Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic (BCI)

Group leader. MD, PhD

Pancreatic cancer has been a focus of my research for the last 15 years.

It is one of the deadliest malignancies with virtually no 5-year survival. So, my main motivation is to make a difference for pancreatic cancer patients.

As poor survival is largely due to late diagnosis, when the tumour is already at an advanced stage, we are particularly interested in improving early detection methods.

What makes your job rewarding?

We have recently discovered several biomarkers in urine that look promising and could help with detection of early, non-invasive pancreatic disease – if we could catch these pre-cancerous conditions, it would make a big difference. This is hugely motivating and inspiring to continue and translate this work into patient benefit.

I think that one of the most important things is to love what you do, as we spend most of our days at our jobs; determination combined with honest and hard work almost always pays off.

Who are your role models and why?

To be honest, I do not really have a specific role model; the majority of scientists are hard-working and bring their own valuable contributions to the overall advancement of their field.

With rapid technological advances happening more now than ever before, collaborative effort is almost always necessary for a bigger breakthroughs.
I greatly admire everyone I have had the opportunity to work with in our research projects.

What balances your life outside work?

I love gardening and enjoy having a quiet read when all around me is green and blossoming. I also love theatre and travelling; especially because I have family in Croatia, Montenegro, Switzerland and the USA.

 

Friday 24 March 2017

Dr Protima Amon (Blizard)

Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist. MD

I completed my medical degree at Imperial College and graduated in 2002. My interest in medicine stemmed from a very young age; encouraged by my parents who taught me that anything was possible! They instilled in me the principles of hard work, honesty and a determination to succeed.

My early paediatric training was at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where I achieved Membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics in 2006. I was also appointed to the Higher Specialist Training Programme in Paediatric Gastroenterology in The London Deanery. I completed my specialist training in 2014 and took up my current post as a CRF in the Centre of Immunobiology at the Blizard.

What makes your work rewarding?

I am a self-confessed research enthusiast, currently doing a PhD on the microbiome in childhood Crohn’s disease. I am investigating whether enteral diets, used as first line therapy for children with active Crohn’s disease, affect the microbiota. If an improvement in the condition of the gut is found to be associated with changes in the bacteria, the aim would be to maintain the composition of bacteria to achieve long term health in children with Crohn’s disease.

I consider working with children and their families a privilege and having the chance to help children get better remains the most rewarding aspect of the job. I thoroughly enjoy working with children and young people and being appointed as Consultant in The Royal London was a particular high point as this was where I first trained in paediatric gastroenterology and I feel very much at home there.

Who are your role models and why?

My professional role models include Professor Parveen Kumar and Professor Bhupinder Sandhu, both of whom inspired me, reassuring me that combining medical and research careers is achievable and, moreover, fun!

What balances your life outside work?

I admit there are times it is a challenge to balance an academic and clinical career. I feel supported in both my roles at work and at home where I have a family and am mother to whom I consider my most avid supporters: my sons, Daniel aged 8 and Benjamin aged 6. Being a mother is my greatest achievement to date and they remain my motivation to strive for future success.

 

Thursday 23 March 2017

Professor Patricia Munroe (WHRI)

BSc, PhD

I remember watching the BBC popular science programme “Tomorrow’s World” with my family when I was 9 or ten years old. I had always been fascinated by science and learning from the programme about how certain traits and diseases run in families sparked in me a lifelong interest in genes and genetics.

These were challenging concepts for any child but it encouraged me to aim for a career in which I would learn how to find genes and discover the relationship between those genes and human disease.

What makes your work rewarding?

I was lucky enough, through hard work and determination, to be able to follow my ambitions for a career in science. In my current position as Professor of Molecular Medicine I find one of the most rewarding aspects is being at the forefront of my field and making scientific breakthroughs in cardiovascular medicine.

A most memorable achievements I had during my earlier days in research was discovering the gene responsible for Batten disease, a rare neurological disorder. Performing the crucial experiments that led to this discovery were challenging but ultimately very satisfying as this breakthrough provided some understanding of this terrible disease.

More recently, in 2009, I was a lead member of the international consortium that discovered the first genetic regions associated with hypertension. Being able to work with and co-ordinate such large groups of eminent scientists with a common goal introduced to me a different way of doing science. It was immensely satisfying to make the first breakthrough in understanding the complex genetics of hypertension.

Who are your role models and why?

During my career I have met and worked with many world class researchers. However, Professor Leena Peltonen-Palotie, who sadly passed away in 2010, stands out as someone who has proven to be a major role model during my career.

I first met Leena in Helsinki when I was a post-doctoral fellow at UCL studying Batten disease. Her presentation at that meeting on finding genes for Finnish inherited diseases was truly inspiring. She made many substantial contributions to Medical Genetics, and is a role model for female scientists worldwide.

What balances your life outside work?

In addition to my research I am also fortunate to be an active teacher in the medical school for both undergraduates and postgraduate students, from which I derive a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment.

Balancing an active demanding career with my life outside the workplace can be difficult at times. I do enjoy watching football and I support Liverpool, so I get to as many matches as I can and, for those 90 minutes, I totally switch off!

 

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Dr Natalie McCloskey (Blizard)

Institute Manager. PhD

Science has been a passion for as long as I can remember; my father is an engineer and as a child I was often to be found helping to build a brick wall or mixing cement. I wasn’t allowed a car until I could prove I knew the basics of car maintenance!

I studied Immunology at University and really enjoyed it going on to complete a PhD followed by three post-doc positions in the field of B cell Immunology.

As a postdoc I got to a point where I had to make a decision about my long-term career options, I enjoyed being a postdoc but didn’t see myself being a group leader, given that there is no permanent lab scientist career pathway available I started early in my last postdoc to explore options, this proved to be wise as it took almost 2 years to find a position. This was a lab management position at WHRI with Prof Nourshargh and I have not regretted leaving the bench at all. 

What makes your job rewarding?

In my role as Institute Manager I interact with a wide variety of staff and students within the School and QMUL; it is rewarding to see them succeed and to think that in some small way I have contributed by providing the support structure needed.
Being the first in our family to go to University, and later passing my PhD viva, was a great achievement. I found out in my later years that my grandmother had been offered a place to study Music at college but turned it down to marry and raise a family, in a foreign country at that, and she was immensely proud of me. Of course, having my daughter is a personal high point.

Who are your role models and why?

There have been many professional role models throughout my career, most recently Prof Sussan Nourshargh was a great mentor and definitely helped me transition from a research to professional grade career pathway, without her mentorship I would not be in the position I am now.

What balances your life outside work?

My husband and I both work full-time and we have to be highly organised to balance our home life. We are fortunate in both having some flexibility built into our work schedules. We have a 6 year old daughter and are able to share the caring responsibilities quite well. It can be quite hard to have a social life, too, and we try to do as much as we can at weekends.

 

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Professor Aine McKnight (Blizard)

Professor of Viral Pathology - Gender & Ethnic Lead. PhD

I always knew even as an undergraduate that I was looking for a career that had teaching, research and clinical practice as key components.

I made my mind up then that I wanted dedicate my career to researching the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What makes your work rewarding?

The opportunity to do good science surrounded by talented and capable colleagues is wonderful. I feel deeply fortunate to be able to give young doctors and scientists of tomorrow a hands-on introduction to scientific research.

In 2011 I was awarded two prizes: the Biomed Central Award for best overall open access paper of the year (out of 218, 000 publications) and best paper in Microbiology, Immunology, Infection and Inflammation.

It was a moment of great pride to receive the award at the Emirates Stadium surrounded by my (mostly female) team at the time.

Who are your role models and why?

While I have many personal heroes, I have not attempted to model myself on any of them. Some of my heroes include Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and Rosalind Franklin.

My mentor Professor Robin Weiss once told me never be disappointed by having a paper scooped; see it instead as an opportunity to leap forward to the next discovery.

Mendel demonstrated that physical traits are heritable, Darwin showed that these traits are selected, and Franklin was fundamental (together with Watson and Crick) to the discovery of how DNA encodes and transmits these heritable, selected traits. It would be great to have a Franklin Institute!

What balances your life outside work?

Science is not so much a job, as it is a way of thinking about the world. It is just part of my life, both professional and private. I spend most of my time thinking about science and, when at home, discussing it with my family - frequently fuelled by red wine and chocolate.

 

Monday 20 March 2017

Professor Kim Piper (Dentistry)

Head of Admissions (SMD) & Professor of Oral Pathology (HCC)

I always knew even as an undergraduate that I was looking for a career that had teaching, research and clinical practice as key components.

As an undergraduate, during my pathology teaching I knew that I had the skills of pattern recognition or 'spot the difference' that all pathologists need and, importantly, I really enjoyed pathology.

My PhD years were formative in providing me with research skills beyond the project I was involved in and I followed this with a challenging spell in oral and maxillofacial surgery, which was important as a pathologist - to be able to understand the other side of the coin from a surgeon’s point of view.

What makes your work rewarding?

I am really proud of setting up and being part of our Bridge the Gap widening access project, which is enabling a huge range of school children to access inspiration and apply for a place in Medicine or Dentistry.

Of course, being part of our admissions team, I am proud of seeing students during their A level years at open day, into medical or dental school and then beyond graduation as fellow colleagues that.

Who are your role models and why?

I have worked with and alongside many talented people and am normally most impressed by individuals who are steadfast, honest and not afraid to speak up.

During my PhD I was lucky to be supervised by Sheila Jones in the Anatomy department at UCL who was not only hugely clever but also supportive and inspiring in that she managed a research program and her family life and was never apparently challenged by doing so.

What balances your life outside work?

I have a lots of commitments to admissions, teaching, clinical work, research and post graduate training, which keeps me busy.

I also have 4 children and lots of pets and a very understanding husband. The key for me is to smile, believe that you can succeed and have lots of outside interests, which you keep up no matter what to provide mental downtime.

I love the theatre and watching music, for both of which one must switch off phone and e-mail! By way of advice, I’d say believe in yourself, always stay flexible in your approach to life and true to your core values - never be too shy to ask for advice or help.

 

Thursday 16 March 2017

Li Chan

SMD international women’s week

How did you first become interested in your area of work and what attracted you to this area?

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to undertake a year-long laboratory based research project as a medical student. I remember working extremely hard during that year, driven on by the prospect of discovering something new.  My interest in endocrinology developed as a junior doctor working in the speciality.

However, it was not until I spent time in Paediatric Endocrine clinics, managing complex patients that I knew I wanted to become an academic in the field. Almost 15 years on it is clear that the marriage between paediatric endocrinology and molecular biology remains strong.

Please tell us about one or two of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.

I was the first student from my school to go to Oxbridge. In fact, I only knew Cambridge existed and that I could actually apply after attending a Cambridge GEEMA (Group to Encourage Ethnic Minority Applications) summer school.
More recently, being awarded an MRC/Academy of Medical Sciences Clinician Scientist Fellowship was an extremely important milestone in my academic career. This has allowed me to pursue an independent scientific career and to establish my own group. It was also reassuring to know that my research direction and project was competitive and fundable.   

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their achievements?

I have a number of role models. The qualities that I aspire to have evolved as my career has changed. At the start of my career they were generally outstanding clinicians and scientists. Now I also have role models who have good work-life balance. My take on role models is that there are never too many as everyone holds a quality that is different to your own.

What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of your job in the School of
Medicine and Dentistry?

The ability to ask a scientific question and finding answers for this, with the long-term goal of changing patient management and health outcomes is the most rewarding aspect of my job. The WHRI and SMD provide a supportive environment to help me achieve this aim.

How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?

Being a working mother can be difficult and often feels like a balancing act. Academia provides some flexibility which helps but can be all consuming at times and lacks boundaries. A number of things have helped me balance my career with home life. I work part-time which allows me to spend more time with my children. I have had to learn to compartmentalise my time more carefully. I shared parental leave with my husband, who is also an academic, allowing me to return to work earlier following maternity leave whilst knowing that the remaining parental leave was being well utilised!

 

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Dr Danë Goodsman (IHSE/CME)

Reader in Medical Education

I have worked in Medical Education since the mid-1990s, having transferred from mainstream education. In some respects serendipity has been a mark of my career path and each post has allowed me to engage in different areas, creating and drawing out a capacity to be flexible and adaptive.

What makes your work rewarding?

A student I had worked with approached me in 2007 with a proposal to create an opportunity for students to engage in shifts with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and London’s Air Ambulance (LAA). She had also contacted individuals in each and together the four of us came up with the Prehospital Care Programme (PCP), which is now in its 10th year and our ever-expanding alumni group now practice across the UK and the world.

Integral to the programme and run by the PCP Student Leadership team is a monthly Academic Forum; I always feel such pride when I sit in the Perrin and look at our audience of 300+, all motivated by the programme to learn about and get involved in this new area of medicine.”

More recently, I set up an intercalated degree in Prehospital Medicine with a clinical colleague, and I run a module entitled “Integrated Topics”. At first, students find much of the work baffling, thinking “What application to understanding medicine could ‘governance’ have?”

As they progress through the programme, they realise and can apply the understandings they have gained and ultimately see the centrality of such notions to the development of their professional selves.

Who are your role models and why?

Very early in my medical education career I was blessed to work for both Professor Frank Ashley and Professor Sir Cyril Chantler.  In terms of leadership skills, professionalism and integrity they set the bar as high as possible. The single key element they epitomised was their interest in developing talent within their staff through listening to and supporting ideas directly or indirectly. The PCP mentioned above is my way of demonstrating the lessons I learned from them.

This quote captures far better than I can ideas about engagement and commitment:
“Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor”
- ref H. Jackson Brown Jr.

What balances your life outside of work?

To be completely honest, not much at the moment.  As I continue to develop our prehospital medicine work whilst at the same time maintain all my other work commitments I am having to use valuable ‘not at work’ time.  However, I don’t see this need carrying on indefinitely and hope to reintroduce proper equilibrium soon.”

 

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Prof. Kairbaan Hodivala-Dilke (BCI)

Deputy Institute Director, PhD, FMedSci

I think my love for biology started when I was quite small, in the garden. By drawing plants and animals and really observing them, I learned to love understanding what made things grow and what made them grow in a certain way.

I started my scientific career as a technical assistant, first at The Jodrell Laboratories, Kew Gardens, and then in the Wellcome Trust funded Malaria Research team at Imperial College, London.

Following my PhD in epithelial cell biology at The Imperial Cancer Research Fund, I was a postdoc at MIT. I later established my laboratory here at the Barts Cancer Institute and our research focuses on the cellular and molecular basis of tumour angiogenesis (blood vessel growth).

What makes your work rewarding?

The joy of having a lab is having all these brains and hands all working together, all towards a common goal. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been in the lab for, I still get a real kick out of the discoveries; looking down the microscope and seeing something for the very first time, something no one else has ever seen before, is still a thrill for me.

New technologies mean that we can learn so much more, so much faster. There’s no other job I can think of that allows you to wake up in the morning, have an idea and then do the experiment to make your discoveries — its orgasmic! To me, that’s still the driving force — that excitement.
I was awarded the Hooke Medal by the British Society of Cell Biology in 2015 and made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences - reflections purely of the great people I have had the privilege of working with.

Who are your role models and why?

I had several strong influences. My parents where keen artists and they always encouraged me to observe and draw. I loved music at school too; I think it instilled in me the discipline that helps in biology today.

I also had had a fantastic biology teacher there; she gave us confidence that we could really understand biology through close observation and experimentation and could actually make discoveries.

My mentors are probably my scientific heroes. They’ve all shaped my science in one form or another and have given me the attributes to pursue the questions that I want to answer. Generically, I would consider my scientific hero to be someone who doesn’t want to just do what others have done before them, but really wants to change the textbooks, challenge dogma and make a difference.

I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors like Ian Hart who used to lead our Centre, and Richard Hynes and Fiona Watt (my postdoc and PhD supervisors respectively), that have given me that advice. Starting your own lab can be daunting. How do you find these people to do the precious experiments? I have been very fortunate in that I was once told that, when selecting people to work with you, you should always look for enthusiasm.

What balances your life outside of work?

My family and friends. Life is short, I believe in work hard and play hard!  It also helps that I do think that science is just like playing. It keeps it fun!

 

Monday 13 March 2017

Kate McFarlane (Student Office)

“I began this career in the Post Room at what was then The London Hospital Medical College over 20 years ago, sorting and delivering mail within the Medical College. My aim was to “get my foot in the door”, and within a year I had climbed the ladder to become PA to the Academic Registrar.

Then, students received government grants to support them through university and one of my roles was to administer the government student grant cheques but in 1998 the student grant scheme was scrapped and replaced by repayable student loans, which had a major impact on all students, especially those from low income households.”

What makes your work rewarding?

“I am involved in all aspects of Student Finance including liaising with Government Student Bodies such as the Department for Education, Student Finance England, The Student Loans Company and the NHS Student Bursary Scheme.

I became involved in the Dean’s Benevolence Fund Scheme that was created by the SMD to support students in severe financial need and, as a result, I found my forte!

I love what I do, not only because it is extremely rewarding to be able to support students whose studies may be compromised due to financial constraints but also because I get to accompany such students to grand dinners and events organised by the Charities and Guilds who support our hardship schemes.

I also fundraise to replenish our Benevolent Fund coffers; creating and submitting proposals to external organisations.  In 2016/17, I have raised in excess of £100,000 and allocated ~£550,000 in grants, scholarships and interest-free loans to students.”

Who are your role models and why?

“I have great admiration for people who choose professions in healthcare or public services where they can make a difference to the wellbeing of others. If I had to choose one role model it would be the wonderful Mary Wollstonecraft.

Mary wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1792, setting out her case for equal rights,  based on our equal power of reason, and she lobbied for women to have representation in Parliament - 100 years before the suffragette movement. She wrote extensively on the significance of education and learning and proposed that girls and boys should be educated together at the State’s expense.

At 25, she established a girls’ boarding school in Newington Green and has had a critical influence on the lives of women. Although she knew poverty and disadvantage from her youth, she challenged society and changed the world. The Wollstonecraft Society’s campaign ‘Mary on the Green’ hopes to raise enough funds to erect a statue of Mary in Newington Green in the near future. Her daughter, Mary Shelley, also became an author and wrote the horror novel ‘Frankenstein’.”

What balances your life outside of work?

“I volunteered as the Events’ Organiser for field trips and other activities at St Catherine’s Girls Club for many years until it unfortunately closed due to low attendance.

I enjoy travelling the world and like to go on weekend walking trips in the UK and Europe. My youngest son is a professional cricketer so, during the summer, I go to cricket matches all over the country to watch him play.”

 

Friday 10 March 2017

Dr Teisha Bradshaw (WHRI)

PhD MRSB, Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Although I have always been interested in neurodegenerative diseases, I have only recently become quite fascinated by mitochondira, organelles coined the “power plant” of the cell.

The importance of healthy, functional mitochondria and regulation of mitochondrial dynamics in neurodegenerative disease is a relatively new, exciting and developing field.

I now focus on the role of molecular chaperones in regulating mitochondrial dynamics and its potential importance in the neurodegenerative disease Autosomal Recessive Spastic Ataxia of Charlevoix Saguenay (ARSACS). This interest stemmed from my PhD, completed in 2014, when I identified that ARSACS patient fibroblasts had altered mitochondrial shape and function.

We study the way mitochondria change shape and move in response to stress or loss of/mutation of proteins, and the effect that this has on the health of cells helps gain new insight into mechanism of disease. Mitochondria are very different to the sausage shaped pictures I was so used to seeing in my science lessons.

What makes your work rewarding?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is knowing that our research can directly contribute towards understanding disease mechanism. In the SMD we are fortunately well placed to establish good collaborations to assist with this.

My first, lead author paper has been a significant achievement since working in the SMD. It was published in Human Molecular Genetics in December 2016. Being in the early stages of my career it was very rewarding to see my work accepted by my peers as something of value to the scientific community. I have had a few co-authorships in recent years but it was such an accomplishment to see my work published - hopefully one of many to come.

Who are your role models and why?

Dr Rajiv Machado, was my Post-Doctoral supervisor during my undergraduate project. He is now Senior Lecturer in Human Molecular Genetics. His penchant for discovery and his ability to think outside of the box constantly challenged me to seek the right questions instead of just the answers. His scientific achievements and progression are admirable.

What balances your life outside work?

Among other activities, a lot of my time is taken up as a Brownies and Guides Leader. Getting a chance to volunteer with girls in itself is also quite rewarding as it’s a chance to do something completely different for a few hours a week.

The girls have fun and get new experiences and skills. A few times a year, I get be the “cool” leader and show off what I do when they take part in science challenges.

 

Thursday 9 March 2017

Féaron Cassidy (WHRI)

PhD Student in Endocrinology

I first became interested in Biology at my Dublin secondary school. I was lucky to have a brilliant teacher who had a sufficient repertoire of comedic poetry and anecdotes.

I went on to do Zoology in Trinity College Dublin, while most of my friends chose areas of science that they thought better suited to finding a career. I’m glad I chose Zoology as it allowed me to grow my knowledge of biology from a context I am passionate about. I am currently working on my PhD in mouse models of human disease but I use lots of what I learned in Zoology. The draw of this PhD was that it incorporates a benefit to humans with some of my favourite subjects: genetics and embryonic development, with an epigenetic component, which is a subject that has always fascinated me.

What makes your work rewarding?

I feel extremely privileged to work on a subject that I am passionate about and to be surrounded by others who feel the same about their work. I haven’t published any papers (yet!) but the opportunity to present work at conferences, especially abroad, is very rewarding. It is nerve-wracking but always worthwhile.

I have also gained a huge amount from being part of WISE@QMUL; I am very proud of the series of six videos I  last year as an outreach project promoting STEM subjects as something for everyone. I am very excited for International Women’s Day this year as we are holding our largest ever event.

Who are your role models and why?

Maybe not one person – Mary-Claire King is incredible, however - I admire everyone I meet who has passion for their work and produces incredible results but also aren’t consumed by their job.

I know a lot of people, especially women, are put off careers in academia because of the perceived inability to work in academia and maintain a life, but I’ve also heard many – including women – disagree. So I will see!

I think having a network of peers is just as valuable as having a set of role models, so we should make friends, not just our department but by attending events, chatting, and joining groups like WISE@QMUL.

What balances your life outside of work?

I’m really into yoga; when you want to check you are balanced in a posture you sway slightly from one side to the other until you feel that you are centred somewhere in the middle. I think with work-life balance, sometimes we need to do the same; it’s easy to get caught up and not realise you have gone slightly off centre.

 

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Dr Vicky Jolliffe (Blizard)

Reader and Educator in Clinical Dermatology

“I am very proud as Programme Director, in collaboration with my fantastic colleagues, to have built up the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Dermatology into an international e-learning programme and to have received the Blizard Institute Educationalist of the Year Award 2016 as well as accreditation from the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2017.

I believe the Athena Swan initiative is extremely important support for professionals like me who are passionate about their Academic careers but realise that this passion has to fit into with the world, which for many of us involves parallel careers as parents and carers.”

What makes your work rewarding?

I cannot really believe my good fortune in finding a career that combines all my interests so wonderfully; dermatology embraces everything I love about medicine: endless variety, clinical challenges, knowing patients as individuals, and increasing understanding of the genetic and molecular science underpinning skin disease. My role as Programme Director for the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Dermatology fits in very well with my love for teaching and my extrovert personality and I am immensely fortunate to have had this opportunity and to have been supported by a wonderful team.
I have been privileged in having a number of exceptional mentors and role models throughout this process who have enabled me to see first-hand that one can juggle an academic career and still be a wonderful colleague and supportive friend and parent.”

Who are your role models and why?

“Professor Irene Leigh is impressively brilliant at all of the above but still believed in me and I am forever grateful to her for this. Close colleagues Professor Catherine Harwood and Professor Edel O’Toole have been consistently amazing role models over the years both as brilliant female Academics and wonderful human beings. I also hugely admire Professor Jenny Higham for being an inspirational combination of educator, mother, and fashion icon!”

What balances your life outside of work?

“While everyone has different needs in terms of balancing a career with family pressures, we can all agree that huge hindrances include meetings outside of office hours, overambitious and impractical expectations of academic output (that can only be achieved at the expense of domestic fulfilment) and failure to appreciate the enormous practical difficulties posed by working as an academically ambitious parent. Athena Swan should be applauded for recognising these obstacles and helping people to achieve their potential within academia.

Luckily for me my three children seem to have forgotten the many occasions when we had no food in the house/no toilet roll/no-one to pick them up from violin, and are very proud of Mum, so hopefully it all balances out in the end!”

 

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Dr Jess Potter (Blizard)

MD, PhD student

“I am a respiratory registrar but taking time out to do my PhD. My research uses predominantly qualitative methods to explore health care access amongst people who moved to the UK recently and have TB.”

What makes your work rewarding?

“One of my proudest achievements was receiving my MRC fellowship – particularly because I was 10 weeks pregnant at the interview and could barely remember my own name I was so tired!

TB is a social disease, linked to poverty and inequality. My research is therefore concerned with social justice.  To this extent I am involved in TB advocacy work.  Last year I went to Cambodia on a media campaign to encourage the UK to contribute to the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  I have also written articles in the Independent and the Guardian and was shortlisted for a QMUL public engagement award this year.

Within the SMD I mentor medical undergraduates, facilitate PBLs and have lectured the Global Health students. I love teaching and see it as an intrinsic part of being a doctor. I am continuously inspired by students and often think they have more to teach me than the other way around.”

What balances your life outside of work?

“My alarm (toddler) usually wakes me up around 6am. He is adorable in the morning, running around babbling or jumping up and down on my head, while I hide under the duvet pretending I might actually get another 10 minutes’ sleep. After leaving the house I inevitably discover a grubby finger mark or smear of snot on me but it’s too late to do anything so I wrestle him into the bike seat, arriving at his nursery the moment it opens at 8am.

I am so lucky to live such a short distance away and usually make it to my desk by 8.30, via the obligatory morning coffee.

Whether my day involves recruiting participants, seeing patients, teaching, reading journals or writing I leave by 5.30pm sharp to pick up my son.  Sometimes the compromise between work and family is tough.  I work weekends as a respiratory registrar and that means 12 days in a row with very little family time, not to mention my forthcoming research month in India!  I love my job and am fortunate to have fantastic support, so, for now I will attempt to keep juggling all the balls!”

You can follow Jess on Twitter:

@DrJessPotter

 

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Dr Gunnel Halldén (BCI)

Reader in Cancer Gene Therapy

I became fascinated with biology as a child during long nature walks with my grandfather. Later, my passion for biological research was ignited on a temporary job to support my University studies at the Karolinska Institute.

I worked for a Nobel Committee member, internationally known for his elegant work on gastrointestinal peptide-hormones. I think his endless curiosity and enthusiasm had the greatest influence on my future career, inspiring me to pursue interesting but difficult physiological research questions.

What makes your work rewarding? 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the flexibility to do experiments when I have time, propose new ideas for projects, and train young students and postdocs who are just starting their careers.

I spend a lot of time at my desk writing papers and grant applications so if I can escape to the lab to try out something new, I am thrilled. It is very satisfying to get exciting data, raising new questions and ideas. Besides keeping me on my toes, it is very rewarding to see how my enthusiasm for science often inspires younger women who often need more support to pursue their career dreams.

It is very rewarding to be able to instill some confidence by showing them that dreams can materialize especially if you work hard. Of course, the ultimate reward in my job would be to contribute to a deeper understanding of cancer and new curative treatment for the disease - something that keeps me going every day.

Who are your role models and why?

My very first role model was Professor Marie Curie who was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize for her pioneering research. Later my first mentor, Professor Viktor Mutt, became a very influential role model. He had an unquenchable curiosity and imagination, and never gave up in search of the ‘truth’, always encouraging us to look further and deeper. This approach really stuck with me and I am currently integrating virology and endocrinology in my quest to develop new anti-cancer therapies.

What balances your life outside of work?

I love the outdoors and try to get out in nature as often as I can by biking, skiing, running, swimming, and kayaking in Summer. To relax I read, watch movies and do Pilates.

 

Monday 6 March 2017

Professor Annie Cushing (IHSE)

Professor of Clinical Communication. Head of Unit of Clinical and Communication Skills. PhD, FDSRCS (Eng), BDS (Hons)

I began my career as a clinician, researcher and teacher in oral surgery, oral medicine, oral pathology and periodontology. I then became increasingly interested in public health and undertook a full-time PhD research project funded by the MRC, supervised by the visionary Professor Aubrey Sheiham, into Socio-dental Indicators of Oral Health Needs.

Our research established in oral health the now-mainstream concepts: that people’s lived experience (as well as biomedical aspects) is key to health and illness; along with potential for self-management and prevention, refocussing on consent, shared decision-making and partnership.

While working in community dental health clinics at Kings, healthcare professionals’ communication in sharing expert knowledge and helping people cope with difficult procedures, started to fascinate me.

I undertook training in the UK and USA and became Co-ordinator in Communication Skills back at the medical schools of the Royal London and St Bartholomew’s hospitals where they wanted to integrate consultation skills teaching across all healthcare contexts.

What makes your work rewarding?

I love working with interesting and stimulating colleagues, researching and introducing better ways of learning, and of course interacting with students. Curiosity is central to the way I work and develop; my teaching is interactional, small group-work, using simulation with actors in roleplay, and every session is different. I am delighted when past students develop a passion for this aspect of a doctor’s professional role and come back to teach.

Recently I have worked on involving patients and the public in medical education. For example, co-creating the Gynaecological Teaching Associate programme is an achievement that chimes with my lifelong interest in women’s health since the feminist movement of the 1970s. It trains non-clinical women to teach female pelvic examination techniques and how to communicate to reduce inevitable anxiety. Our research showing benefits of the programme to students was published and served to establish the programme within the curriculum.

Another rewarding achievement is my role as adviser to the General Medical Council on communication assessment of International Medical Graduates in the PLAB exam, which has enabled me contribute at a national level.

Who are your role models and why?

I have had the privilege to work with clinicians across all specialties and appreciate the difficulties they face. I marvel at their skills, humanity and courage.

Professor Lesley Rees was Dean of Barts in 1991 when I arrived, and the only woman Dean of a medical school in the UK. I also discovered she had been head girl at my grammar school. She set up the first Inter-professional Clinical Skills Centre by walking across Barts Hospital grounds into the School of Nursing and suggesting the Dean of Nursing studies work on a joint clinical skills learning venture for nursing and medical students.

Women like Lesley were breaking the mould both in traditionally male preserves and ways of collaborative working. This was the kind of environment I wanted to be working in.

Dame Cicely Saunders was another pioneer who inspired me. She was a nurse who subsequently trained as a doctor and founded the hospice movement in the UK. I heard her speak at an Oral Surgery symposium when I was a house officer and it was the first time I had heard anyone give a lecture about the patient’s experience rather than the pathology and surgical management. I was spellbound.

What I have so valued is the opportunity to work with great leaders, like Professor Aubrey Sheiham and later the medical educationalist Professor Peter McCrorie, who have inspired me to think more broadly, be curious and keep questioning.

What balances your life outside of work?

Music has always been important and going to my choir in the evenings rejuvenates me. I recently discovered ceramics and can become absorbed in this novel creativity. It also draws me back to the craft that dentistry was, with the satisfaction of seeing the tangible results of one’s efforts. 

I think women are remarkable in having to keep so many things on the go; still primarily keeping both children and home going, even when tasks are shared. Striving is important together with a degree of realism that there are lots of things that don’t go to plan. I have learned that sometimes with patience things change, the time becomes right and opportunities arise that enable good ideas and ambition to take off.

 

Friday 3 March 2017

Dr Lou Metherell (WHRI)

Reader in Endocrine Genetics, Centre for Endocrinology

I was inspired by a careers talk from a genetic counsellor at school and have been fascinated with genetics ever since.

Undergraduate projects and postgraduate studies convinced me that a research career was the way to go. My PhD was in bacterial genetics but I had always wanted to work on human genetics and found the opportunity when I came to QMUL in 1998. I’ve never looked back.

I study the genetics of endocrine disease with particular interests in disorders of primary adrenal insufficiency and growth hormone insensitivity.

What makes your work rewarding?

Solving a problem is very gratifying – whether diagnosing a patient or working out the mechanism behind a gene defect. Perhaps one of the most rewarding things is inspiring the next generation of scientists and medics to pursue research careers.

In my time here my greatest achievements have been in adrenal disease genetics where I’ve linked several genes to syndromic and non-syndromic forms. This has allowed two thirds of patients to be diagnosed. This research was recognised through awards to myself and group members. The most significant of these was a New Investigator Award from the Medical Research Council that launched me on the path to becoming an independent principal investigator.

Who are your role models and why?

I’ve had a couple of inspirational bosses whom I would count as role models. The first, Adrian Clark, was the previous centre lead for Endocrinology and he always had an open door policy to encourage frequent interaction, which I try to emulate.

Our current centre lead, Marta Korbonits is truly remarkable – she has achieved so much and despite being extremely busy always has time for an encouraging chat.

What balances your life outside of work?

I’m not sure I’ve got the balance right, academic life can be all-consuming and as a single parent this is particularly challenging. Luckily I have supportive friends and family who have acted as surrogate parents to my son allowing me to attend out of hours meetings/networking events and in particular looking after him to enable me to go to national and international conferences. I think, like many women, I do a good impression of a swan – calm on the surface but paddling like hell underneath!

Links

 

Thursday 2 March 2017

Dr Sadani Cooray (WHRI)

Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pharmacology,
Course Director, BSc Pharmacology & Innovative Therapeutics.

How did you first become interested in your area of work and what attracted you to this area?

I have always been interested in becoming a Scientist from a very early age. After completing my A’levels in Sri Lanka, I came to the UK as an overseas student to study for a degree in Biotechnology with a year in industry. My final year project was related to the ‘role of gut microbes in colorectal carcinogenesis. I was really interested in this, since my grandmother had passed away from this disease a few years before. The project gave me a good taste about what it was like to become a research scientist. Subsequently I gained invaluable research experience in areas of Medical Microbiology, Genetics/Neuroscience and Endocrinology.  I have experience working in industry but I have always had a keen interest in academia. My current research interests are in the field of molecular pharmacology and I feel my varied background has helped me immensely. I first became interested in the field during my PhD having being exposed to working on G-protein-coupled receptors in the context of endocrine function and subsequently inflammation.

Apart from my interest in research I have a huge passion for teaching. I believe that the training I got from presenting my research work at conferences gave me the confidence to speak in front of large audiences. This has become very handy as I sometimes have to lecture to over 100 students which I would otherwise have found quite daunting. I teach both medical and basic science students. I am the Course Director of a new BSc degree and I lead and teach on the modules ‘drug target identification’ and ‘receptors and mechanisms of cell signalling’ which I enjoy very much.

Please tell us about one or two of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding?

 I was awarded the WHRI Education prize (Excellence in teaching) in 2016 in recognition for my work in designing and developing an innovative pharmacology curriculum and for implementing the brand-new BSc degree in Pharmacology & Innovative Therapeutic as well as for my teaching on basic science and medical degrees. I also consider my 3 outstanding young investigator awards (1 national and 2 international) in recognition of my research as very rewarding.   

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their achievements?

Yes, I have many professional role models that I have always looked up to who have supported me at different stages of my scientific career.

Prof. Sir Anthony Epstein, CBE, FRS FMedSci, one of the discoverers of the Epstein Barr virus was my Senior Tutor whilst I was studying at Oxford University. I was absolutely in awe of him obviously because of his groundbreaking work. During my studies at Oxford, I met up with him on a regular basis and he always encouraged me and gave me invaluable advice which gave me the confidence to pursue a career in Science.  Another one of my role models is Professor Adrian Clark, FRCP, FMedSci, and I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to complete my PhD under his guidance at the WHRI, which undoubtedly helped my career progress into the world of academia. I have known Prof Rod Flower, FRS FMedSci, since I joined the WHRI and my first proper encounter with him was when he chaired a young investigator competition at the WHRI in 2006 which I went onto win. I had the opportunity to work with Prof. flower from 2010 onwards and up to this day he is supportive of my career.

 

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Professor Frances Balkwill (BCI)

Centre Lead of the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation, Barts Cancer Institute. Director, Centre of the Cell. OBE, FMedSci

“I became interested in studying the tumour microenvironment because when I looked at cancers under the microscope I could see many different cell types, not just malignant cells, and I wanted to understand what they were all doing. Were they trying to fight the cancer or were they helping it grow and spread?”

What makes your work rewarding?

“I am hugely privileged to be able to run a biomedical science research centre and also a major public engagement project; these two areas are very synergistic.

When my children were young and I wanted to explain what I did at work, I could not find any books on cells for children, so I started writing some. This has been so rewarding, especially the Enjoy Your Cells series; I often meet people who bought the books for their children and now for the grandchildren, too.

Trying to translate our laboratory research to clinical trial is also rewarding, but difficult! So is career success of some of the junior staff I have trained, and Centre of the Cell – however, this is an enormous team effort that I have been privileged to lead.”

Who are your role models and why?

“My role models are the most successful scientists in my field, men and women who are open, generous with their time, creative thinkers, and influential beyond their field of expertise - people like Alberto Mantovani from Humanitas in Milan who is an amazing scientist but also active in science policy and administration and a devoted family man.

I also greatly admire Clare Matterson at the Wellcome Trust for her important work in establishing such a diversity of public engagement with science in the UK.”

What balances your life outside of work?

Each day I try to make time to play the piano, and spend as much time as possible with family and friends –a lot of this is made possible because I live within walking distance of both workplaces. Being involved in the wider aspects of QMUL life and the general ‘science world’ of London makes for a rich life outside the immediate workplace.”

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