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An article from our series:

In 50 words or less, what do you do at MDC-Lighthouse Lab?

I am the Chief of Staff at the Lighthouse Lab and part of the Leadership Team for the Lab. It is a really varied role, with particular focus on our people, communications, governance and planning for the future.

What is your scientific training/career background?

My background is scientific: I have a BSc in Biomedical Science and a PhD in Immunology. I started out working in industry, conducting research on food allergy and later analysing biomarkers in cancer drug development, before I moved out of the lab. For the last decade my work has focussed on research funding, strategy and collaborations. I’ve worked for major funders of medical research, for the NHS, and most recently at the University of Manchester.

What gets you up in the morning?

A good coffee.

What’s one important thing you’ve learnt working at MDC-Lighthouse Lab?

The power of a great team. Our team is now over 600 people strong from a really diverse range of scientific fields – different industries and stages in their careers. It’s an unusual situation in that everyone working at the Lighthouse Lab has chosen, over a relatively short space of time, to join and contribute to the COVID-19 testing efforts. There is an unwavering commitment to our mission, which is one of critical importance, and there is a real sense of camaraderie here.

To date, what’s the most extraordinary or interesting job/project you’ve had in your career?

A few years ago I helped set up a postgraduate training course on clinical genetics and genetic counselling for doctors in China. It was a project that took several years to set up, breaking new ground in a lot of ways, with many conversations and visits needed to get advice, approvals, secure funding and develop content for the course. It was exciting when the course finally launched, candidates signed up and they found it really valuable. I’m proud to have played a small part in improving the lives of patients in a far away country through helping develop and set up this course.

What should people talk to you about?

Tell me about your stories and achievements working in the Lighthouse Lab. I’m happy also to talk about research grants, academic careers, vegetarian food, walking in the Peak District, and border collies.

Who or what has inspired you in your career as a scientist?

I always enjoyed science at school and was lucky to have great science teachers but I wasn’t completely sure of the field I wanted to go in to. I had considered a career in psychology or anthropology but eventually decided it was biomedical science that interested me the most. With everything I have done I’ve wanted to contribute to improving peoples lives in some way, be that through better understanding a disease, or developing a new treatment. Even through the work I have done developing funding applications with academics I can see that ultimate aim fulfilled by facilitating the research which does this.

What ambition have you yet to achieve?

To walk my age in miles. I really need to get on with this; it is only getting harder.

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