Celebrating the contribution of women scientists in the NHS

Today (11 February) is International Day of Women and Girls in Science with this year’s theme celebrating women scientists at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19.
Some of our NNUH clinicians have been sharing why they got into science careers and their advice to girls and young women interested in careers in the sciences.

Dr Catherine Tremlett, Consultant Microbiologist and Infection Control Doctor, said
“In my third year studying medicine at university, we studied Microbiology and it was the best and most interesting topic I had encountered. I was immediately fascinated by the microbial world, and its interaction with and influence on humans in positive and negative ways.
I have a medical career that has significantly interacted and interfaced with science and I still look forward to the unexpected challenges that Microbiology brings. It may be walking in to the laboratory one morning to the diagnostic conundrum of a bacterium we haven’t seen before, or recognising an outbreak from the processing of diagnostic samples, or managing a difficult case of antibiotic resistant infection through understanding the scientific basis for that resistance. Add to that a Clinical Microbiologist’s contribution to clinical areas such as Infection Prevention and Control and Antimicrobial Stewardship and there is no time to be bored.
“I would recommend a career in Science and Medicine as one with the potential to fascinate and satisfy. There are diverse opportunities for those who choose this career path. Be prepared for challenges and the unexpected. It is often when things don’t seem to be going to plan that the most interesting discoveries are made.”

Dr Allison Chipchase, Consultant Clinical Biochemist, said: “I loved science at school – particularly chemistry and physics – and couldn’t imagine doing a job that didn’t include science in some way. What I love about my job is that no two days are the same – clinical scientists take part in research, they teach both undergraduates and postgraduates, they interpret lab results for patient-facing staff, they work to constantly improve the quality of the results that they generate and continually review practice and what the service provides, often in collaboration with medical staff, to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.

There are so many different jobs for scientists, and so many ways to study science – don’t be put off if you think a ‘traditional’ route isn’t for you. Remember that every field of science will have aspects that you might find more interesting that others – don’t be discouraged by the parts that you find less exciting. Talk to scientists, ask what their experiences have been, how did they end up in the career they’re in, see where they work – in universities, private companies, the NHS – and benefit from their advice, to pursue the future that you want to be part of in science.”

Dr Emma Meader, Consultant Clinical Scientist, said: “I applied for a psychology degree at university, but I made the change when I realised that I was enjoying my science revision significantly more. It seems that the more we learn, the more we realise how little we know – it’s beautifully complicated. In the health service, the progress is translated into patient benefit and it is incredibly rewarding to be part of that. An interest in science is still the reason I love coming to work.”

Rebecca Cozens, Pathology Training Manager, said: “I have been interested in science since I was a child, especially medical science. I am also interested in education and keen to encourage young people into healthcare science, so to be a Biomedical Scientist and Training Manager was an ideal job for me. Pathology has a range of disciplines and specialities which allows an individual to find an area suitable to their likes and skills. There are also a range of job roles available.”
A lot of people have misconceptions of the qualifications or skills they need to enter scientific careers and are unaware of the different opportunities available. Unfortunately they can dismiss science early on in their education. I would advise anyone interested in a career in science to find out as much information about any area they are interested in. If possible get to spend some time in that area or speak to people about what it is like to actually work in that field.”