What inspired our women scientists?

Scientists in a lab

Lucy EcclesThe 11th of February is the International Day for Women and Girls in Science. We’re using the whole month of February to celebrate the achievements of our women scientists and to encourage more people to follow in their footsteps.

As part of our celebrations we have developed a blog series featuring our female researchers. In today’s installment, we asked our female scientists what inspired them to pursue a scientific career.

Eline van Roekel, who is currently leading on a project funded by us on colorectal cancer survivorship, told us how her ambition to become a scientist began at school:

“During secondary school I developed my ambition to become a scientist, mainly based on my inherent curiosity and great eagerness to learn. The idea that, being a scientist, you can perform your own research and generate novel knowledge and continue to learn new things throughout your career sounded like a dream job to me, and still does.

“Several people have inspired me to research within the biomedical field, including a paediatrician that treated me for health problems I encountered during my childhood, as well as my parents who have shown me from very young age that helping other people, which I aim to do by my research, is one of the greatest things in life. I developed my interest in epidemiology and in colorectal cancer survivorship research during my studies of Biomedical Sciences and my PhD, where teachers and supervisors inspired me to build up my research career in these areas. Currently, my mentor, research collaborators, and the participants included in our study are still a major inspiration for me to continue my dream job as a scientist and to try to improve the life of colorectal cancer survivors through my research.”

José Breedveld-Peters, who works on the same project as Eline reflected on what inspires her to work in the field of nutrition and cancer:

“I was brought up with the basic value that we need to take care of other people who are less privileged in life or who are in need of help. It is therefore important for me to contribute to improvements that can be beneficial for others. In my work as a postdoctoral researcher, my ambition is to contribute to the knowledge about lifestyle in colorectal cancer survivors and to contribute to the translation of these research findings into lifestyle recommendations or interventions that can help improve quality of life and complaints of survivors of cancer. There are still lots of questions unanswered, but I am convinced that we can make considerable improvements to health and well-being of survivors of cancer through a healthy lifestyle and diet.”

One of our academic Fellows, Kathryn Beck, from New Zealand, told us how her thirst for new knowledge was satisfied with a scientific career:

“I enjoy learning new things and searching for new information so a career in science fulfills both of these aspects.”

For Nonsi Mathe, another academic Fellow of ours, a career in health and medicine was always on the cards:

“I always had a passion for public health and medicine and finding ways to prevent diseases. As an undergraduate student, I undertook a research study which opened my mind to the need for finding different ways to prevent diseases. I landed in this particular field by simply following my interests.”

For World Cancer Research Fund grant holder Brigid Lynch, a career in science wasn’t always on her mind:

“I didn’t set out to have a career in science – as an undergraduate science student I had no idea of what I really wanted to do.  My undergraduate studies were related to exercise science, so I have had a long-term interest in both the physiology and psychology of physical activity, but I don’t think I ever thought about a research career at the time.”

This all changed for Brigid when she read some of the early work on exercise and cancer survivorship done by Christine Friedenreich and Kerry Courneya. It was this work that inspired her to undertake a PhD in this area and she was lucky enough to have Christine as one of her postdoctoral fellowship supervisors

We also interviewed some of our scientists based at our London office on their inspirations – take a look here:

Stay up to date with our women in science activities on Twitter and Facebook.