Throughout history, women have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). But STEMM fields are suffering. gender gap This situation continues today, with women often being underpaid and undervalued, especially in senior positions.

Encouragingly, several efforts have been made in recent years to raise awareness of the inequalities faced by women and drive change to improve opportunities. Addressing issues such as gender stereotypes, unconscious bias, and a lack of visible role models will help encourage more women to get into their STEMM and build careers.

technology network I recently had the pleasure of speaking with an amazing role model for aspiring female scientists. Dr. Joanne Mason.

Dr Mason completed his PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cambridge and went on to a successful career in science, including managing the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Core Facility in Malaysia and leading the Comparative Genomics Group at Public Health England. I've built a career. He became director of sequencing and sample collection at Genomics England, taking over his current role as chief scientific officer for the Novacyt group of companies.

In this interview, Dr. Mason details her career path and experiences along the way, and also shares advice for women considering a career in science.

Anna McDonald (AM): How did your interest in science come about? Do you have any role models who inspired your career?

Dr. Joanne Mason (JM): I have always loved science. There was never a single day or moment when I decided I wanted to be a scientist. It was simply something I was good at at school and I felt a career in science could be very interesting.

Looking back, I think I drove my parents crazy by constantly asking them “why?” Over and over again as a child. I have always been a curious person and have been very interested in biology since I was a child.

When I was in 6th grade, I loved learning biology. My first inspiration was my biology teacher at A-level. She has a PhD and she previously worked in industry for a while, but then she returned to teaching biology. She really inspired me with the stories she told us about the projects she had been working on. She gave me perspective and understanding of what it's like to work in science in the real world. So I decided I wanted to get a degree in science, specifically biology. I discovered my passion for human biology.

My second inspiration was when I finished my degree. I'm older in my job search and my boss, John, was great. He challenged me to consider pursuing a Ph.D., something I had never considered before. No one in my family had a Ph.D., but he made me believe that I could get a Ph.D., and I actually did.

These are the two people who convinced me to work in science very early on, but there are also many other amazing and high-achieving people I've met throughout my career. They gave me the motivation to keep going, keep trying, and accomplish things. That's the difference.

AM: Can you tell us more about your current role and your career path to date?

JM: I am the Chief Scientific Officer of the Novacyt Group of Companies, which recently acquired Yourgene Health. I lead the company's overall science strategy and mentor the scientists who develop our molecular diagnostic products.

That's a great job. In fact, it's the best job in the world. I never feel like I'm coming to work because I'm genuinely interested in what I'm doing. I am passionate about science and helping other scientists build fulfilling careers. I'm very lucky that I love what I do.

How did I get here? After completing my PhD, I served as a postdoctoral researcher, and during my career I was very fortunate to see the rise of NGS technology. I still remember the first meeting I attended when NGS was just starting up. When Gordon Dougan gave his presentation, I just thought: “Wow, that's amazing. I want to do that too!”

I went to work at the Health Protection Agency (as it was then called) leading the Comparative Genomics Group. There he had the opportunity to learn and use NGS and advance the technology into today's diagnostic methods.

My career has grown over time and I believe it is by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to me. I have been lucky enough to work abroad in Malaysia and have worked on some great projects such as: 100,000 Genomes Project. By the end of the project, we had successfully developed a rapid pathway for cancer patients to receive results in just two weeks, rather than months.

Morning: What are you doing? What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you think is your proudest accomplishment?

JM: I think I really enjoy both sides of my world. One is to support the progress of other scientists, support their career development, give them opportunities, and watch their progress. The other thing is what I love about science: the practical application of science.

My proudest moment is seeing that the products we make and the projects we work on actually have a direct impact on the health of people today. I think it's related.

When I worked in a clinical lab, there was a person whose treatment was not working, and the clinical team was desperately trying to find something else to treat him. We decided to sequence his genome, both the tumor genome and the normal genome. I remember completing the sequence on a Friday afternoon and my team and I working on the data over the weekend. By Monday morning, we had discovered several cancer-causing mutations, allowing him to participate in clinical trials. Later that morning, his treating clinician was calling the patient to request the trial.

Unfortunately, the patient passed away, but additional treatment gave him nine months of quality life and allowed him to be present for his daughter's wedding. If we hadn't taken that action, he would never have been able to be there. My favorite part of working in science is actually having an impact on someone's life, and that's what we strive for.

AM: Have you ever faced setbacks on your path to success? What did you learn from them?

JM: Of course, everyone faces setbacks throughout their career, whether a project doesn't work out or is cancelled. As a scientist, it can be very difficult to be passionate about something and then suddenly have it end.

I still have setbacks in my career, sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent. I think what I learned was resilience and tenacity.

As a scientist, you need to be resilient because there is rarely a straight path to success in a project or career.

When researching or developing something, you just have to learn to keep moving forward and eventually get there. In other words, be determined and never let anyone tell you it can't be done. Having hurdles to work around makes the end reward all the more valuable.

AM: What do you think are the biggest hurdles women face when pursuing a career in STEMM? Are the challenges the same in industry and academia?

JM: The glass ceiling is very real. There aren't that many senior women on boards or at C-suite levels. Many studies have shown that it's hard to make progress, whether it's because of not being heard or impostor syndrome. All these things are very real, so it can be difficult for women to reach the highest level.

I think as women we need to support other women, but we can also benefit a lot from our male colleagues. So I'm not giving up on a career in science, but I need to really dig into that resilience and tenacity to reach my full potential and make sure I get that opportunity without fear. It may be.

Don't give in to deep-seated doubts that you're not good enough, and tell yourself that you can do it because female scientists are just as capable as male scientists.

We are all scientists. We are neither female scientists nor male scientists. We are all just scientists.

It feels like we are facing the same challenges in industry and academia. There aren't that many senior women academics. If you decide to have children, I think it's hard to take time out of your career in either field and say, “I'm not going to do this for a few years.'' It's great that a woman who has taken time off is given a grant and has more opportunities to get her career back on track.

AM: If you could give one piece of advice to women considering a career in science, what would it be?

JM: Do it. If you like science, I think you should definitely pursue it. Because if you're doing something you're truly passionate about, it will never feel like work. It's great to spend your life doing something you're passionate about. When you're given a chance, take it and see what happens. It's all about taking advantage of the opportunities given to you or creating your own. Don't be afraid to do something a little different.

The great thing about working in science is that it's never boring because it's always changing, and as the industry evolves with advances in technology and so on, you'll never do the same job twice. Please value continuous exploration. With that mindset, keep learning and stay up to date with developments. I believe that constantly gaining knowledge about new things is a great way to build your own career.

Dr. Joanne Mason was speaking to Anna McDonald, Technology Networks' senior science editor.

About the interviewee:

Dr. Joanne Mason He is the Chief Scientific Officer of Novacyt Group, where he leads the development of next-generation molecular diagnostics, particularly in the field of reproductive health. Joanne is a champion of the modernization of diagnostics using genomic technologies, and previously held the role of Vice President of Biodiscovery at Cambridge Epigenetix (now Biomodal), particularly in the field of early cancer diagnosis. He led the development of clinical epigenomic technology and served as director of sequencing. And he managed sample delivery and whole genome sequencing for the 100,000 Genomes Project with sample acquisition for Genomics England. She has previously served as an advisor to the DOH Rare Disease Policy Committee, the MHRA Genomics Forum for Diagnostics, the UK NEQAS – Genomics England Steering Committee, the Genomics England Sequencing Advisory Committee, and the BIA Genomics Advisory Committee. I did. Joanne previously worked for the NHS Foundation Trust at Oxford University Hospitals, where she led translational research. She established and managed an NGS core facility, delivering disease-specific diagnostic panels and bringing whole-genome technology to the point of diagnosis. Introduced arrays. Before she joined the University of Oxford, Joanne managed her NGS core facility in Malaysia and led the Comparative Genomics Group researching novel and dangerous pathogens at Public Health England. Dr. Mason holds a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from Cambridge.

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