Elizabeth is the Senior Lecturer in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Derby and is the lead academic supervisor of our upcoming MPhil student project starting this month.
Q: Who were your female role models growing up?
A: My mum was, and continues to be, the best support and champion I could ever ask for. She has opened more doors for me than I have for myself. Then I had a brilliant personal tutor at University – Dr Juliet Coates – she made me go back upstairs one Friday afternoon in my final year, and ask to do a PhD with my supervisor, Prof Robin May – that was one of the best things I have ever done.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: That every day is different – I get to teach fantastic students; read manuscripts discussing interesting data and advances in science; interact with medics, patients, other scientists; design new experiments and projects; run experiments myself at the bench. There’s a lot of pressure, but it is never boring!
Q: Have you ever experienced any barriers/prejudices in your career with regards to your gender?
A: Unfortunately, yes. For me, it has been mostly in relation to assumptions and suggestions that I will start having a family and then work part-time and step back from my career, and so forth. Men do not face this ingrained prejudice, yet they also become parents. I love my family, but I also love my work.
Q: What would you say to encourage more girls to take on a career in STEM or research?
A: Collectively women are making instrumental changes in STEM – women think differently to men, and that only brings advances and innovation. As women, we need to support and champion each other so that STEM will continue to thrive; the more women join us, the easier this will become.
Q: What inspired you to stick with science?
A: The passion that I have for my subject – so many times I have thought of leaving and setting up my campsite in the Yorkshire Dales (this still is a dream of mine!), but I just love scientific discovery too much.
Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?
A: A nurse – until my Mum suggested I could be a doctor instead…my response “Don’t be silly mummy, girls can’t be doctors”! She soon put me straight on that! As it happened, I didn’t get the A level grades I needed to study medicine, so I studied Biology instead with the full intention of applying for graduate medicine. However, I absolutely fell in love with molecular biology, and having an extraordinary depth to my knowledge about the most tiniest of things; I haven’t thought about medicine again.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? How have you applied that to your career?
A: Always be true to yourself. It’s a difficult one to implement at times, but it also keeps me grounded, and gives me great strength and satisfaction when things get tough.