In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, we asked one of our researchers, Dr Nicola Mutch at the University of Aberdeen, about her career, what she thought of our new Research Strategy and for her advice to other researchers.
What do you research?
My research centres on understanding the biological processes that help the body form, stabilise and dissolve blood clots (a blood clot can lead to a heart attack or a stroke, by restricting or completely blocking oxygen-rich blood supply to the heart or brain). By understanding these complicated series of chemical changes, we hope to be able to identify what predisposes certain individuals to develop blood clots or bleeding complications, the key factors in how many diseases progress and how we treat certain illnesses.
How has having a family affected your career choices?
By the time I considered having a family, I was in an independent position directing my own research. This had its advantages and disadvantages, as it meant that I was the boss, but nevertheless it is challenging to get things to progress when you are not around. Having a family has not changed my views on my career, as I love what I do, and I think it is important for my children to get a glimpse of the many opportunities that are out there.
How have you balanced your career and family life?
Juggling a research career and a family is certainly a challenge. I think the only way that I manage it is to maintain a good degree of flexibility in your work and home life and try and surround myself with a good team!
What advice would you give to other female researchers?
Don’t give up! It may be challenging but there are many rewards. Take support and advice from where you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a mentor that can help to guide you through some of the ups and downs.
Take a look at our Heart Matters magazine for ten inspirational women in science.
What advice would you give to Dr Nicola Mutch ten years ago?
That is a tough question, as I don’t think my advice would be any different to what it would be to any new researcher – female or male! Make sure you are passionate about your research and try and find your own niche that defines you as an individual and expert in the field.
Our new research strategy offers more flexibility for Fellowships, including broader criteria for the Career Re-Entry Fellowship to assist a return to research after a career break. How do you think this will help?
I think these BHF fellowships are a great opportunity for individuals to get back into science and to rediscover what they found enjoyable about it. It can be difficult and daunting to try and explain to a prospective employer or funding body why you have a ‘gap’ in your CV, therefore a fellowship of this nature, with more flexibility, could propel someone back into research by a different track. I also like to think there will be more flexible options for those who don’t want to take a career break as such, but who are juggling greater complexity in terms of work and home balance.