What is your current role?
I am the Head of Blood Component Development and the Lead Scientist for Transfusion Medicine at the Welsh Blood Service.
What interested you in a career in science?
I have always had a keen interest in the natural world and grew up in a house in the countryside surrounded by animals and pets of all kinds.
How did you get to where you are now?
When I started comprehensive school I experienced the separate sciences for the first time and had an amazing chemistry teacher who described the principles of chemistry in such a way that it made perfect sense – I loved learning about atoms and the perfect nature of forming molecules. From then on I was hooked on science! I also found out around this time that my grandmother, who had as far as I was aware always been a housewife had a chemistry degree, she was born in 1901 and it amazed me to think of her, as a female, doing a chemistry degree in the 1920’s! I wish now that I had talked to her more about her dreams and how it had felt to give it all up to raise a family.
I went on to read Biochemistry at Warwick University and graduated with a 2:1 in 2001. I was offered a PhD at Warwick and the university was also opening a medical school where you could enter the second year with a biochemistry degree, which was appealing, however I felt that I really wanted to get some experience of working in a laboratory before I made any decisions about what to do next and applied for a position as a trainee biomedical scientist at the Welsh Blood Service.
After a year at the Welsh Blood Service I qualified as a HCPC registered biomedical scientist and spent the next 12 years working in the different laboratories across the service and completed an MSc part time in biomedical science. After several role changes I became the Head of Manufacturing and Distribution – managing a team of approximately 40 staff who processed blood donations for distribution to the hospitals across Wales. Although I enjoyed this role and learnt a huge amount about leading and managing others, I found I was missing being more involved in science and feeling some regret about not having taken my earlier opportunities to do a doctorate.
I was very fortunate that the Welsh Blood Service created a new role as Head of Blood Component Development and research which I applied for and won in 2018. Part of this role was establishing a new research laboratory and the other part was to complete the Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST) programme. The HSST is a work-based doctorate in clinical science which enables registration as a consultant clinical scientist at the end programme. Consultant clinical scientist roles are very senior scientific roles that lead the development of new research and practise working with multi-professional clinical teams to improve outcomes for patients. For me, this is the perfect balance between the science that I love and a more clinical role.
Were there any hurdles you had to overcome to get to where you are now? If so, how did you overcome them?
I have two young children in primary school so life is a juggling act between career and family but I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband. It’s not easy having a career and raising a family, but I want my children to grow up knowing they can achieve anything.
Has there been anyone who has inspired you to pursue your chosen career path?
I have worked with some amazing female scientists who have inspired and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. My organisation has always been very supportive of developing its scientists and I have had many excellent female role models who have been there to give me advice and show me what can be achieved.
What words of advice would you have for other girls/women interested in a career in science?
My words of advice to women interested in pursuing a career in science are that the possibilities are endless – there are so many different ways that you can use science in a career and it is amazingly rewarding.