My career in science really started off as a medical student. Looking back, although the intake of our year was 50:50 male:female there was a subtext that the female students would probably end up working part-time, allowing the really competitive jobs for the boys. I'm not sure it has turned out that way.
Developing Interest in Human Genetics
At UCL it was expected that the most interested and able students would take an extra pre-clinical year to study one of the sciences prior to starting their clinical studies. I chose Human Genetics as an intercalated BSc and studied at the Galton Laboratories, a department that was really the 'home' of human genetics, although I didn't appreciate that initially! Even back then, I felt that it was the expanding field of molecular genetics that really interested and absorbed me. I got a First in my intercalated degree and then proceeded with my medical degree, but once qualified I began to think about Clinical Genetics as a potential career. I sought career advice from the Professor of Clinical Genetics at the Institute of Child Health, Marcus Pembrey, who encouraged my to apply for an MRC Clinical Training Fellowship to fund a PhD which I did. Marcus introduced me to Sue Malcolm, a newly appointed Reader in the department who was to become my lab supervisor and mentor, together with Marcus.
Supportive Supervision for PhD
This was, I realize now, a very fortunate set of circumstances: I had both an Academic Clinician and a Scientist as supervisors and both were very supportive of women in science and medicine, Sue having her own family, and Marcus as head of a clinical unit in which one of the trainees was always on, or approaching a period of maternity leave. So I did my PhD, managing the work and a young child at home; it certainly taught me time management skills and the importance of surrounding myself with good colleagues who would step in and help out with things at short notice, knowing that I would do the same.
Male and Female Role Models
I didn't have my second child until I had started post-doctoral studies during an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship. In many ways the second pregnancy was harder because by then I had established a small group, for whom I was now responsible. Nevertheless, with their understanding and flexibility (supervisions at my house!) it all worked out and I was soon back in the flow of things. I was appointed as a Senior Lecturer when I returned to work and in 2012 I was promoted to a Professor at UCL ICH. I feel that I have been very lucky to have had such good and supportive male and female role models throughout my career.