Staff in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath gathered this week for a photo to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Sarah Knedel, Department Coordinator, said: “It’s important to celebrate this day to raise the profile of women in science and to show girls that there are many different pathways into working in science. This photo represents the many inspirational women working in the department that I’ve met since joining the department.”

As well as the photograph, colleagues from the department were also asked to share some thoughts about working in science and what made them choose to become scientists.

"" Back row from the left: Ms Kelli Gallacher, Dr Sarah Madden and Dr Cressida Lyon. Front row from the left: Dr Maki Asami, Professor Momna Hejmadi, Dr Emma Denham and Professor Adele Murrell.

Professor Adele Murrell is the Deputy Head of Department and a Co-Director of the Centre of Mathematic Biology. She is also a research group leader in Epigenetic Gene Regulation. Adele said: “I did Fine Art and History of Art at university, and in my final year I collaborated with the Clinical Genetics department in identifying genetic syndromes in classical paintings. I became fascinated with genetics and ended up working as a technician in a diagnostic cytogenetics lab after completing my Art degree. I wasn’t good at art.”

Dr Cressida Lyon is a lecturer in the department of Biology and Biochemistry. She said: “I was really lucky that the school I attended was extremely supportive of girls who wanted to study science. In fact, it was proactively encouraged. My biology teacher was a great role model – she made us realise the applications of science by giving us “real-life” examples from the X-Files (a sci-fi drama from the 90s)! My PhD supervisor was super inspiring. I was one of her first PhD students and she dedicated a lot of time and energy to teaching me the craft of lab science. She was very down to earth, but also extremely dedicated and ambitious. She made me feel like anything was possible.”

Dr Maki Asami works as a lecturer at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, currently providing maternity leave cover for a research fellow and at the same time she is an active researcher: recently as a member of an international research team led by Professor Perry reported that genes are ‘switched on’ much earlier in human embryos than thought. She said: “I like all kinds of art. Because nature is the ultimate art, I was naturally attracted to studying them. For me, being a scientist is a very attractive and exciting profession that perfectly combines my hobbies and work. Science is an endless quest and sometimes a long and tough road, but even small discoveries can be very rewarding. It is my pleasure to contribute a little piece of a clue to admire the art of nature.”

Dr Sarah Madden is a postdoctoral researcher working to develop new peptide-based cancer therapeutics with Professor Jody Mason's group in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. Sarah said: “There was never a single decision that led me to become a scientist. I simply followed the path that interested me the most and that has led me to where I am today. I have been fortunate to have had many amazing mentors along the way that have traits I wish to emulate, and that has encouraged me to constantly look to improve and to ultimately keep going.”

Professor Momna Hejmadi is Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Science and an Associate Pro-VC (Education) at the University who also teaches cancer biology. Momna said: “I stumbled into science by accident in India but discovered this incredible career where I get to play a part in a global machine working to cure cancer and being paid for the privilege! Those rare ‘eureka’ moments in the lab and travelling the world for conferences are some of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.”

Research assistant Kelli Gallacher is working on a research project looking at the transcriptional control of the stem cell state in human epidermis. She said: “The main lightbulb moment for me was when we dissected a heart in a Year 8 biology class. From that point on I was fascinated with the intricate workings of the human body and knew I wanted to work in science. My secondary school biology teacher was extremely engaging and supportive of my studies. He organised all kinds of practical lessons, ranging from making necklaces containing our DNA to dissecting fish heads – you didn’t know what was coming next! Once I moved onto my undergraduate degree, my final year project supervisor was the driving force behind me wanting to specifically pursue a career in research. Her curiosity and excitement for cell biology was contagious, and she provided some invaluable training and advice that still helps me to this day.”

Dr Emma Denham is a senior lecturer and spends time planning her group’s research programme and running a research lab. She is also an Admissions Tutor for the department’s Biology and Biochemistry programmes and the independent advisor to postgraduate students at Bath. She said: “I was the first person in my family to go to university, and when I decided I wanted to go I didn’t know very much about it or what you could study. When I was taking A-Level biology I discovered my love of genetics, my teacher said that there are courses for that at university and that was my decision made. I have always been interested in how life works and the problem-solving aspect suits how my brain works. I had planned on focusing on human genetics, but I got the opportunity through Erasmus to spend time in a microbiology research lab at the University of the Algarve in Portugal. I quickly learnt that bacteria are way more interesting than people and much quicker growing, (although maybe the proximity to the beach influenced my decision)!”