Associate Professor, University of Oxford
I never really thought about having a “career in STEM” – I just followed what I enjoyed doing. I always liked asking questions and trying to figure things out. Science has allowed me to do that.
My parents always said: “the world is your oyster” I took that to heart and never thought about barriers. I just did what I do: ask questions, try and find answers and then move on to the next puzzle (occasionally leaving a broken radio in my wake when I couldn’t put it back together!) I was one of the first generation of my family to get a degree but that was just the start; I still had lots of questions and wanted to keep going, so I did.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, that’s how we learn best. Don’t be afraid to fall down, it’s the getting back up that’s the most important.
Finding role models
While studying for my doctorate under Professor Finian Martin at University College Dublin, Ireland, I met one of my role models, mentors and best friends; Dr Ruth McMahon. Ruth was tenacious, if something didn’t work, she would figure a way around, over or under the obstacle and it would get done. That’s what you need in science – a lot of grit, almost obstinate determination and a great dollop of hard work. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, that’s how we learn best. Don’t be afraid to fall down, it’s the getting back up that’s the most important.
Looking beyond limitations
I don’t see myself as a “woman in science.” I’m a scientist. That, to me, is the norm. There should be no barriers to what you can achieve because of who you are, so never look to the limitations, look beyond them. Through the pandemic response, we have seen how “the impossible” became “the reality” achieved through collaboration, hard work and imagination. We’ve shown that when we work together, we can achieve the impossible. We need to remember that hard-learned lesson to keep the future bright.