March 10, 2016, by Editor
Lisa White’s blog for International Women’s Day 2016
I grew up in a small country town in rural Victoria in Australia. I enjoyed learning at school and loved reading and maths. At High School in Year 9, boys and girls at this stage were separated into different classes: ‘electronics’ for boys and ‘home economics’ for girls. I rebelled and became the first girl to study electronics and got an A too. After high school, I went to University and studied Chemical Engineering. At the end of my degree, I spent a year as a teaching assistant before starting a PhD.
I did my PhD part-time, combining it with a teaching post in Chemical Engineering. My PhD was entitled ‘Solids flow and segregation in a dish granulator’. This may sound dry but I really enjoyed it and had a great time doing an overseas stint for six months at the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham to track positron emitting particles.
I can’t say that I really had a typical PhD experience as I went on to have two children during my PhD and then took some time out to work as technical analyst in an international patent litigation case. This was a key time for me as I decided to change fields. As much as I had enjoyed my PhD research, I wanted to do research that would ultimately help people. I started to look for post-doctoral roles with a biological or medical focus and was offered a post-doctoral position with Kevin Shakesheff, then head of the Tissue Engineering group, in the School of Pharmacy. My partner (another Chemical Engineer) and our two children (aged 5 and 2) left behind sunny Melbourne to move to Nottingham.
The Tissue Engineering group at this stage was composed largely of biologists and chemists and at first I was completely out of my depth. As time went on, I discovered that I could be a bridge between the biologists, chemists, mathematicians, pharmacists, etc. and I relished the opportunity to be an integral part of collaborative, exciting research. I grasped each opportunity to become ‘more biological’ although I found myself using a lot of my engineering expertise.
At the end of my first post-doc, I had my third child and a six month period of maternity leave. I returned to research in a part-time capacity and went on to do two further post-docs in bone and spinal regeneration. I was very keen to undertake independent research and in 2014 I was awarded a prestigious Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship to work in Pittsburgh for 15 months before returning to Nottingham. This was an exciting and tumultuous time for me and my family, but overall the experience was invaluable.
I returned to the School of Pharmacy in November 2015. It’s great to be back and to have this opportunity to further develop my career in regenerative medicine research.