I obtained my first degree in Genetics at Queen Mary College, London in 1986. After a travel break, I became a research assistant at East Birmingham Hospital and undertook my PhD research with Prof. Maj Hultén in the Regional Cytogenetics and DNA Diagnostic Laboratory. My research was centred on meiosis, the type of cell division that make sperm and eggs. Using the new technology of Fluorescence in situ hybridisation, I analysed chromosome behaviour in human male meiosis. The work focussed on men with abnormal chromosomes that cause reduced fertility, miscarriages or lead to severe developmental anomalies.In 1993 I joined Dr Michael Lichten in the National Cancer Institute in the National Institutes of Health, USA. There I crossed the species barrier to work with yeast as a model organism to further studies in meiosis and chromosome behaviour. It is amazing how yeast is such a great model in cell biology. As a microbe it is possible to study millions of cells in experimental situations that simply cannot be achieved in human studies.
Following 4 years as a postdoc, I took up a lectureship in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The University of Sheffield. There I taught clinical and molecular genetics and my research continued with an emphasis on genetic influences on repair of broken DNA during meiosis. An essential feature of dividing cells making gametes is that they deliberately break their own DNA and use the repair mechanisms both to shuffle DNA (so each gamete is genetically unique) and to share out the chromosomes properly.
In 2012 I became head of my department in Sheffield and was fortunate to oversee an exciting period of growth. I developed the model of mixing teaching and research positions, with roles designed to play to the strengths of academics who had had a quality research experience and developed a great passion for innovative, supportive and exciting teaching.
That brings us up to where I am now – working as a member of Team Bradford. I was really excited to be offered the Dean’s role in a faculty with a vibrant mix of research, basic science and health professional degrees.
I can’t believe my luck in arriving here at a time when the medical school is being developed: an amazing project with an earnest ethos to improve medical training and to develop a genuinely better and more inclusive clinical workforce.
The University sector as a whole is facing seriously challenging times, with the government and press somehow losing sight of the enormous value that we bring to society. One of my overarching goals is to lift spirits and develop a quality driven confidence in Bradford, so the University can long remain the great public servant that it has historically been. To thrive we must surmount many complex difficulties and some of them will doubtless require difficult decisions and changes in habits that do not come easily. Whatever the difficulties, I am really confident we can overcome all: with patience, a collegiate spirit and focus on what we are here to do – research to discover new beneficial materials, medicines and healing processes, and education to empower the personal development and skills of younger minds.