Scientific Discipline/Field: Molecular diagnostics/Genomics
Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G
What does your job involve?
I have just started in a research group focusing on the use of Illumina and MinIon sequencing platforms for clinical diagnostics and outbreak epidemiology. The group has very varied work and my focus also stretches to looking at the use of sequencing for a wide variety of research projects. This is both challenging and super interesting. There is a particular focus of my work on high containment pathogens.
I started my science career as a Biomedical Scientist in the National Health Service. I continued my interest in clinical diagnostics when I joined the Diagnostic Support team at Public Health England. I worked to develop and clinically validate a variety of PCR-based assays for use on complex clinical samples. In March 2015, I had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Sierra Leone working in the Public Health England Ebola outbreak laboratories. This was an incredible opportunity to help in a country with an unstable health system, using my scientific knowledge and techniques in the field.
How did you get to this job (education etc.)?
I completed a BSc in Applied Biomedical Science at the University of Surrey in 2013. This included two 8 week summer placements in the pathology department at St Peters Hospital in Chertsey. I found my interest in molecular diagnostics in virology here and completed my registration portfolio to become a registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council before graduating. After university, whilst looking for a permanent position, I worked as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in the Clinical Immunology and Virology NHS pathology labs. This diagnostic experience converted well to working in the Diagnostic Support department at Public Health England. In the second year of the job, I discovered I had a growing interest in the application of sequencing technology in diagnostics and was lucky enough to secure a job in the Genomics department.
Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?
I have been open about my sexuality since I moved to Public Health England. I’ve been really lucky to work in great teams of people where this has been completely accepted. I would have loved to have had more LGBT role models to look up to, rather than feeling slightly alone in the field. I had not met another LGBT scientist, apart from my partner who I met at university. I feel that the visibility of LGBT scientists needs to improve dramatically so that young LGBT people are not discouraged from pursuing a career in the field.
Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?
My only experiences have been really positive. Public Health England is a great employer at supporting the rights of LGBT staff. I was concerned about working in a rural area, but I find everyone really accepting and supportive.
Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?
The only role model I could think of is Marie Curie. She completed ground-breaking work at a time when female scientists were actively discriminated against, which reminded me somewhat of the plight of LGBT scientists (though not quite as extreme).
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to continue to research next-generation pathogen molecular diagnostics. I would like to start a PhD to continue my research in this field.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This year, I participated in the Stonewall Young Leaders programme. This was a 2 day course which aimed to help me address my ability to be a positive role model in the workplace. I found an awful lot about myself and got to network with 35 amazing young LGBT future leaders. This gave me the confidence to approach the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) to work on a project about LGBT scientists. My article about the LGBT workforce in STEM was published in the November 2015 issue of “The Biomedical Scientist” gazette. I also took part in an interview that was published online (https://www.ibms.org/go/nm/stemdiversity). I will be taking part in a twitter diversity panel run by the IBMS at some point in November 2015 (keep your eyes peeled!).