I’m not sure exactly when I decided I was going to have a career researching important human diseases. As a small child, I wanted to be an archaeologist digging around in the mud looking for something interesting. Family upheaval led to some difficult teenage years and my attention started to be drawn away from school and academic studies. However, my school had been established in the 19th century with the belief that there was a need for improvement in the education of women and so it was engrained that you would go on to University when you left. It occurred to me that a place at University would give me some time away from complicated family life and the chance to see exactly what I was capable of.
I moved from London to Yorkshire in 1991 to study Biomedical Sciences. My course gave me the opportunity of a year out between my second and third year and so I moved to Cambridge. This experience was invaluable and I believe a big asset when it came to deciding what I wanted to do once I graduated. Having completed my undergraduate course, I enrolled onto a Ph.D and moved into the world of research.
I came to Leeds as a post-doc in 1999 to work in a group investigating the normal physiological roles of neuronal proteins which cause neurodegenerative disease. In 2014, I moved to a different research group with an interest in exploring ways to reduce the cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 Diabetes.
During my time at Leeds, I have been able to take advantage of the Universities policy on flexible working conditions taking two periods of maternity leave, returning from the first break at 80% FTE (4days / week) so that I could spend a bit more time with my children when they were very young. My youngest is now about to start school and I have been able to negotiate my hours so that I am now back to working full time. By supporting a positive work-life balance, the University has really contributed to my being able to stay in a job that I really enjoy. I now have a brilliant mentor under the Athena SWAN scheme who is helping to take my career even further by supporting my transition to becoming an independent researcher leading my own team of scientists. Not bad for someone who very nearly didn’t go to University at all!!
My advice to someone considering a scientific career – Get as much experience as you can by whatever means. Competition is fierce so any extra strings to your bow can make all the difference!