Women in Science
Hello, my name is Erika Wiseman and work in the Stem Cell Hotel, part of the Centre for Gene Therapy and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. Our cellular phenotyping facility enables researchers to perform live-cell and high-content / high-throughput imaging to characterise their samples of interest.
I am originally from California and have lived in London for the past 9 years. I graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BSc in Biology: Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, along with minors in literature and psychology. Following university, my first position was in academia, as a research technician at The Scripps Research Institute, where I worked on 2 projects. The first studied the antibody response in, and aetiology of, multiple sclerosis. A second project involved cloning and expression of antibodies recognizing the cellular prion protein. I then moved into industry when I joined a start-up drug discovery company. As part of the lead discovery team, I developed and miniaturised assays for ultra-high-throughput screens of approximately 900,000 compounds. I continued in drug discovery until we relocated to the UK and took a career break to raise my daughters.
My experience of being a woman in science has largely been positive as I have had supportive mentors around me. One of the hardest times was returning to work as a new mother (after only 4 months) but my colleagues, many of whom were also mothers, acted as my second family. Later, I suffered massively from imposter syndrome after taking 4 years off after our relocation and the birth of my second daughter. I hadn’t ever worked in this country, had been out of the laboratory, and now needed to balance returning to a career with the needs of my family. I was so fortunate to find a ‘unicorn’ – a flexible, part-time position in a wonderfully diverse and supportive environment! Having a female head of the department, who is herself a passionate advocate for women in science, fosters the opportunities for the advancement of girls and women. Supportive male colleagues have also played a role in actively seeking balance in panels and discussions, ensuring equal airtime, and promoting an inclusive workplace. As one such colleague pointed out, so many of the life skills that you develop as a mother are applicable to research, after all, who can better multi-task than a busy mum?!
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