To mark British Science Week (5-14th March) and International Women’s Day we spoke to Dr. Elizabeth Marsh about her experiences working in science. Elizabeth is the Senior Lecturer in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Derby and is the lead academic supervisor of our upcoming MPhil student project starting this month.
Q: Who were your female role models growing up?
A: My mum was, and continues to be, the best support and champion I could ever ask for. She has opened more doors for me than I have for myself. Then I had a brilliant personal tutor at University – Dr Juliet Coates – she made me go back upstairs one Friday afternoon in my final year, and ask to do a PhD with my supervisor, Prof Robin May – that was one of the best things I have ever done.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: That every day is different – I get to teach fantastic students; read manuscripts discussing interesting data and advances in science; interact with medics, patients, other scientists; design new experiments and projects; run experiments myself at the bench. There’s a lot of pressure, but it is never boring!
Q: Have you ever experienced any barriers/prejudices in your career with regards to your gender?
A: Unfortunately, yes. For me, it has been mostly in relation to assumptions and suggestions that I will start having a family and then work part-time and step back from my career, and so forth. Men do not face this ingrained prejudice, yet they also become parents. I love my family, but I also love my work.
Q: What would you say to encourage more girls to take on a career in STEM or research?
A: Collectively women are making instrumental changes in STEM – women think differently to men, and that only brings advances and innovation. As women, we need to support and champion each other so that STEM will continue to thrive; the more women join us, the easier this will become.
Q: What inspired you to stick with science?
A: The passion that I have for my subject – so many times I have thought of leaving and setting up my campsite in the Yorkshire Dales (this still is a dream of mine!), but I just love scientific discovery too much.
Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?
A: A nurse – until my Mum suggested I could be a doctor instead…my response “Don’t be silly mummy, girls can’t be doctors”! She soon put me straight on that! As it happened, I didn’t get the A level grades I needed to study medicine, so I studied Biology instead with the full intention of applying for graduate medicine. However, I absolutely fell in love with molecular biology, and having an extraordinary depth to my knowledge about the most tiniest of things; I haven’t thought about medicine again.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? How have you applied that to your career?
A: Always be true to yourself. It’s a difficult one to implement at times, but it also keeps me grounded, and gives me great strength and satisfaction when things get tough.