10 March, 2020
Happy belated International Women's Day! On 8 March, the world celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. At the Babraham Institute our aim is to undertake world-leading research into understanding the biology of how our bodies work during ageing and disease, and that would not be possible without women in all areas – students, cleaners, group leaders, nursery staff, HR managers, postdocs, and many more. This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating their achievements with five women sharing their stories of how they got there, their day-to-day activities, and how they further the Institute’s aims.
How long have you worked at the Institute? Since June 2014
What do you like most about working at the Institute? Excellent science and facilities, positive atmosphere and ethos, family friendly culture, and supportive colleagues.
What does a normal day look like for you? A core part of my work is lab based experimental work which involves a combination of biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, imaging and occasional analysis of tumour sections. I collaborate extensively, inside and outside the Institute, most recently with a lot of mass spec work. Some days also involve reading and planning, or writing papers or grants. Last year, I took on a parallel role developing our Green Labs initiative, which involves interacting with a diverse set of people from across the institute and campus (e.g. Technical Services, Engineering, Estates), to identify actions that make campus research more environmentally responsible and cost effective. This is all done with flexible hours to run alongside raising two young kids.
What career achievement are you most proud of? The research I've undertaken at Babraham on autophagy signalling and cancer cell cannibalism. I’m also proud of initiating our Green Labs project to make our work more environmentally responsible.
How long have you worked at the Institute? 9 months
What do you like most about working at the Institute? The best bit about working at the Institute is the people. The Institute didn’t have a central Project Office before I joined, but it’s been great to see everyone coming together behind the projects – like the Policy Review and the Babraham Campus Intranet Project – and supporting their delivery.
What does a normal day look like for you? There is no normal day for me – my role is really varied, which is one of the things I love about it. I head up the Institute’s central Project Office, which runs projects to support the Institute’s operational and strategic priorities. Most of my day is spent defining and directing our projects, a lot of which involves meeting with a variety of people and responding to emails. The only constant to my day is drinking large amounts of coffee!
What career achievement are you most proud of? The transfer of three MRC Units into the University of Cambridge will always be a bit special as it was the first time I took on the Project Manager role. I’ve also worked on transfer of the London Research Institute into the Francis Crick Institute and the setup of the UK Dementia Research Institute, both of which were exciting new research initiatives and projects that I’m really proud of.
How long have you worked at the Institute? Over 5 years. I first started out as a research assistant in the lipidomics department and later became a PhD student in Jon Houseley’s group.
What do you like most about working at the Institute? I very much like the diversity at the Institute. I come from abroad myself, and I really enjoy getting to know different cultures and languages through other people that I work with. I also feel lucky to have such great facilities and courses available to help me during the PhD.
What does a normal day look like for you? My PhD project is about examining the process of ageing in yeast cells in response to different dietary environments. It might seem unusual to look at a single-celled organism; however, yeast have many of the same hallmarks of ageing as humans.
My day typically consists of conducting various experiments, analysing the results I get from them, and reading publications to have a better understanding of these results. To sum up, it feels like I’m doing detective work where I know that the culprit is ageing, but I need to figure out its methods.
What career achievement are you most proud of? I’m proud that I received a PhD studentship in Cambridge. While I learnt a lot from being a research assistant, I always wanted to challenge myself further by having my own project and own questions to explore.
How long have you worked at the Institute? Since September 2016
What do you like most about working at the Institute? I enjoy the variety of work that we carry out, so no two days are the same. I also enjoy the husbandry aspect with the animals.
What does a normal day look like for you? I begin my day by carrying out daily checks of the animals – this includes checking all animals have access to food and water, ensuring all animals appear healthy, and checking they've got sufficient nesting material. We set up breeders and wean their offspring, and carry out any work which the user requests. My role as an animal technician means I have the animals’ welfare at heart. I help to contribute to the Institute as Happy Animals = Happy Science.
What career achievement are you most proud of? Finishing my apprenticeship and gaining my Personal Licence to work with animals. I'm now working towards my Level 3 Institute of Animal Technology Diploma.
How long have you worked at the Institute? I joined the Institute in November 2018
What do you like most about working at the Institute? My experience working at the Babraham Institute has been very positive so far. I would highlight the focus on scientific excellence and a friendly research culture as two of our strongest points. It is also remarkable the level and the quality of the support we obtain from our research facilities.
What does a normal day look like for you? As a group leader my work days are really varied. I feel I am constantly juggling different tasks, and therefore it is difficult to describe what a typical day looks like. Something I try to keep going on a daily basis are the discussions around our research topic, the questions that need to be prioritised and how to best address these questions experimentally. This involves a lot of reading and thinking time but also close communication with my lab members, who are the ones putting these ideas to work.
What career achievement are you most proud of? I am pretty proud of having my own research group. Many times along the way I wondered if I would ever have this opportunity, so now I am just trying to get the most out of it.
10 March 2020
By Elizabeth Wynn