Mending Broken Hearts: My life in science

Dr Helen Arthur, BHF Senior Research Fellow, University of Newcastle

Dr Helen ArthurThanks to a £1 million grant from us, Helen and her colleagues at Newcastle are using their knowledge of how the heart develops in the embryo to find ways to fix hearts damaged by heart attack. The team are focusing on using a combination of two different cell types to grow new heart muscle and blood vessels.

BHF support

I’ve been supported by the BHF for 9 years – firstly as a Lecturer from 2003 to 2007 and now, more recently, as a BHF Senior Basic Science Research Fellow.

I’ve loved science ever since learning about genetics at school. There’s no other career I would rather do. But I spent a long time out of science – 10 years – while I raised my three children. Before I took this career break, I did research in a completely different area.

A normal day

Research labMy typical day involves planning the experiments happening in my research group. I also spend time working closely with my PhD students – training and mentoring them. One of the best bits of my job is when, after three years, I see one of my students graduate!

We also meet regularly to discuss results from the experiments – this is a good opportunity to catch-up and bounce ideas off each other. One of the most important parts of the job is designing new experiments – we have to come up with ways to test our theories and ideas.

Once we have the results from our research, we then write it up into a research paper and send it to a scientific journal in the hope it gets published. I get a tremendous sense of pride and achievement from getting a paper published – it shows all the time and effort we’ve spent working on a project has paid off.

The challenges of research

I’m looking forward to the next decade of research and the discoveries we’ll make along the way

I find being a scientist really stimulating but also challenging – it keeps me on my toes! Coming up with the right experiment can be really tough but it helps that I’m part of a great team and work with scientists from all around the world.

It was difficult to spend a long time out of science and then study a new area but I’ve never looked back. And the BHF, thanks to its supporters, has played a tremendously important part in supporting my career. I’m looking forward to the next decade of research and the discoveries we’ll make along the way.