THwomen40: Profiles

How do you look back on your time at Trinity Hall?

With great fondness. One of the entrants mentioned their time in Trinity Hall as ‘magical’ and I could not agree more, not least because I met my husband (on fresher’s day) and we later married in the beautiful chapel surrounded by our Trinity Hall friends.

Why did you choose to study Natural Sciences?

I remember reading The double helix: the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson at school. A book about scientific discovery that has all the mystery, pace and tension of a thriller. To me this book accurately reflects the highs and lows of research – I still look to it for inspiration.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to work in your field?

Follow the data and go where it leads you; ignore scientific trends. Interesting discoveries often occur by chance and through the study of processes that people only realise are important with hindsight. Choose to study what keeps you up at night and fills you with wonder, then do it with a passion.

Who are your female role models?

My mother – she gave me everything to ensure I had the best chance in life; I understand and appreciate this all the more now that I have my own children. I have also been lucky to have been surrounded by amazing scientists (men and women) who have helped to both develop and challenge ideas. Cambridge gave me access to meet these people and, as such, also gave me the opportunity to be where I am today.

What is you greatest career or academic achievement to date?

Discovering part of a new signaling pathway that allows us to sense and respond to a drop in oxygen levels (hypoxia). The work challenged scientific dogma, helps to explain how we acclimatise to altitude and has wider implications for the treatment of respiratory illnesses and cancer that we are working on.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Persevere. Having children may mean it takes longer to get to be where you want but stick at it!

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