How long have you worked at the University and what is your current role?
I've been at Bath for about 8 years and am currently a Professor of Molecular Microbiology in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry.
What motivated you to pursue a career in Science?
I've always been interested in the living world and really enjoy finding answers to new questions and digging into the details of why and how things work. I also love travelling and seeing the world, and a career in science provides so many opportunities to study or work overseas and collaborate with researchers all over the world. I can't think of other careers that are as 'global' as science.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I think that'll be having a member of my lab team come into my office with new results, especially when those are unexpected (in a good way!) or show something that we've been hypothesising but never had hard evidence for.
What has been the most exciting moment in your research, that you will never forget?
There have been a few of those… maybe a good one to list here was getting the phone call offering me the job at Bath. It was my first permanent appointment after several years of trying to find an academic position and worrying that I might have to find something else to do with my career. That phone call was the moment where it suddenly became realistic that I could keep doing what I was enjoying so much.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt through your career?
Don’t give up. I think stubbornness and persistence are some of the key traits to get you through an academic career. Together with learning how not to take rejection personally.
Give us a top tip(s) for women at the start of navigating a career in academia in STEM?
Surround yourself with positive people and build a strong support network. A lot of the time you have to be your own cheerleader in science and academia, so find the people you want in your corner and look after them, so they will be there to look after you, too. I don’t think that’s a women-specific tip, though.
Who is a woman who has inspired you to pursue a career in science?
Actually, the most inspirational people in the category ‘role models’ in my career have been men. But I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside great female friends in my undergraduate and PhD days (and still today!), and off the top of my head I’d say all of us are still in science careers one way or another. It’s been great to see everyone pursue their careers, making very different decisions and with different circumstances along the way, but each pursuing the path they chose with great success.
What are the biggest challenges you faced as a woman working in STEM?
I’d say it’s frequently being asked to sit on a committee/help interview applicants/come to a social event because a woman is needed to achieve a gender balance. To some extent that’s useful, because you get to see more of how academia works, but it is also a big drain on time and energy. And in the end, nobody cuts you any slack when it comes to assessing scientific achievements.
What would you most like to achieve whilst at the University?
That’s a difficult question. Maybe the main thing is to be a good supervisor/mentor for the people in my lab team to help them achieve their goals and set them up for success in whatever career path they choose to go down.
What do you like to do outside of work that helps you to maintain a work/life balance?
I have a horse and an allotment and garden. This all gets me out of the house/office, rain or shine, and is generally good for my sanity.
Describe your perfect day - if anything was possible!
A lie-in followed by a good breakfast, then lots of outdoors time in the sunshine with good company, cake and tea and some chill-out time in the afternoon, and then wrap up the day with a tasty dinner. This could be anywhere on the planet, ideally with a good view and nice warm weather.
What is on your travel bucket list?
Good question; I've been so many places already! Maybe somewhere in Africa with savannahs and lions and giraffes. I'd also love to go to Antarctica and/or Patagonia.
What’s one item you can’t live without?
My hiking boots!