Horsey-mad since I was small, post A-levels, I studied at Brooksby-Melton College for a National Diploma in Horse Breeding and Stud Management for which I gained a Distinction and my fascination with reproductive biology began. This opened up doors for me to travel to Australia for 2 years to work with the top thoroughbred breeding establishments; working in the covering shed, foaling down, preparing yearlings and shadowing the stud vets. Upon gaining this life experience, I returned to the UK and was accepted into the University of Essex (Writtle College) from where I graduated with an Honours degree in Animal Science in 2003. This set me up for my next challenge; working for the Veterinary Laboratories Agency assisting in setting up the disease surveillance centre at the Royal Veterinary College.
After one year in this role, I won a studentship position to undertake my PhD at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London with Dr Rob Fowkes and Dr Anthony Michael, where I characterised the expression and hormonal regulation of the Cortisol (stress hormone) metabolising enzymes (11βHSD) in the male reproductive tract. During this time I was elected as the British Andrology Society’s ‘Young Researchers in Male Fertility’ representative, which gave me my first taste of leadership, mentoring and working towards policy development including the BAS Response to the Human Tissue & Embryos (draft) Bill.
My PhD mentors were great and encouraged me to start applying early for post-doc positions. I sent out several letters of introduction and secured a place in the laboratory of Professor Ilpo Huhtaniemi at Imperial College London. I developed many specialised lab skills, had a chance to work with Panterhei Biosciences and worked on a variety of reproductive biology projects from models of male infertility, to hormone induced pituitary tumors, to ovarian cancer.
After 4 years, it was time for a change, to concentrate on a research direction for the future. I moved into my 2nd post-doc position in the lab of Dr Mandi de Mestre at the Royal Veterinary College, where I am currently investigating the process of trophoblast differentiation. Trophoblast cells are the specialised chorionic gonadotrophin secreting cells of the placenta, differentiation being the crucial process that these cells must undergo to secrete hormone and support successful placental development. This work has not only great potential therapeutically, through investigation of translational mechanisms but also the model acts as a method of reduction and replacement (3Rs) in terms of animal welfare.
During my post-doc years, after serving 4 years with the British Andrology Society, I was elected onto the Society for Endocrinology Young Endocrinologist Steering Group and in 2009 I subsequently took up position of chair until recently retiring in 2013. This was an invaluable opportunity for me, building further my skills in networking, leadership, organising conference symposia and social events, designing courses and developing science policy. I would strongly recommend any young scientist putting themselves forward to join committees of learned societies. Above all else, it is fun!
In the last year, my thoughts seriously turned to ‘what’s next, how do I climb the next rung of the ladder?’ In many ways 2013 was a successful year for me, I became a qualified PRINCE2 Practitioner (project management), my work received several invitations for oral communications at International conference including Fertility, SRF2013 and SSR2013, I won a poster prize at BES2013 for excellent research and presentation (out of 400 abstracts), I wrote my first paper in my newly chosen subject area (under review) and won an Early Career Grant (Society for Endocrinology) to explore the translational aspects of my work to human medicine.
2014 is set to be an exciting year. I will continue to work towards my bid for scientific independence and I am always searching for my next athletic challenge!
*Coming Soon in 2017 – update on my life as a research support professional*