International Women's Day - Jane Freeman
8 March 2021
I didn't start out to become a scientist. I fell into it by a twist of fate - an injury that meant my music degree was no longer really on the cards. I switched to microbiology and was immediately captivated by a microscopic world of colour and smells that seemed to have good guys, bad guys and everything in between.
After my degree I did a PhD in Clostridioides difficile, and there began a 20year+ career almost exclusively in poo. C. difficile causes diarrhoea, usually in people who have been on antibiotics, and often in older people. Our patients tell us it is debilitating, limiting, frightening and the fear of it returning (which it can do) is very real. The UK has made fantastic progress in reducing this awful disease, and the team I work in has been a big part of that. We are committed to tackling this through a wide range of fundamental science, clinical and epidemiological studies.
My inspirations for working in scientific health research are the people around me: both the patients we strive to help, and the fantastic colleagues I work with. I am passionate about helping the people who sometimes struggle to be seen or heard, particularly older people and children to have better prevention and treatment options for infections.
I'm also passionate about widening access to those who may not have considered a scientific research career, particularly people with SpLDs, and love being part of a team that has many different people in it. We have medics, healthcare scientists, university scientists, students, technicians, administrators, clinical trials assistants, nurses and pharmacists - we even work with a BioArtist regularly to create pieces of artwork. No two days are the same, and you get to work with people from all over the world.
While the perception of laboratory scientists is often that of a boffin in a basement lab working alone within the constraints of facts and figures, I can tell you without doubt that science is about communicating with others, sharing ideas and thinking outside the box. As a research scientist I get to imagine beyond our current knowledge and test these ideas out. So if you are a creative person, don't necessarily think you're not a scientist in the making.
If you're interested in careers in healthcare science, I would advise you go to the National School of Healthcare Science website https://nshcs.hee.nhs.uk/healthcare-science/. You can find lots of good information about all the different careers and pathways available to you. Twitter is a good source of information, with a thriving healthcare scientist community.