Dr. Veronica Fowler possesses an MSc in Equine Science and PhD in Virology. She has held scientific roles both at veterinary institutes (The Pirbright Institute and Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) and non-government organisations (The Brooke) involved in veterinary based capacity development in developing countries. Veronica spent ten years working on large budget translational science projects primarily concerned with development and assessment of next generation novel molecular vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and their associated diagnostic tests. Catch Veronica on her Soapbox on Saturday 28th May in London where she will be discussing ‘OUTBREAK ALERT: How quickly can you help identify the pathogen?’.
SS: Veronica, how did you get to your current position?
VF: Having grown up in the Wiltshire countryside I have always been interested in the welfare of animals and their contribution to the livelihoods of the people who depend on them. Therefore I chose to study Animal Science at the University of Reading. Following this I began my scientific career at the Animal and Plant Health Agency developing improved diagnostics for detection of bovine Tuberculosis in badgers. At the same time I undertook a MSc in Equine Science at The University of the West of England. Upon completion of my MSc I realised I wanted to further my research career and moved to The Pirbright Institute to undertake a PhD in Virology (foot-and-mouth disease). My PhD was to design and assess novel chimeric foot-and-mouth disease vaccines and their associated assays for differentiating infected from vaccinated animals. This was a collaborative PhD project between the Pirbright Institute, the Royal Veterinary College and the United States Department for Agriculture, Plum Island Animal Disease Centre. On completion I chose to stay at The Pirbright Institute as a Post-Doctoral research scientist developing novel DNA vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease. During this time I developed a keen interest in methods which can be used to improve animal health in developing countries and therefore took up the position of Research Advisor for The Brooke, which is a global animal welfare non-government organisation focusing on improving equine welfare in developing countries. I really enjoyed this position, however I also enjoyed being a laboratory/field scientist and therefore I returned to The Pirbright with the skills I developed at The Brooke in capacity development to create a new role involving both laboratory and field based science. My current position at The Pirbright Institute is to develop innovative next generation molecular diagnostic tools for a multitude of economically important diseases of livestock and to validate and transfer the use of these methods into developing countries to enable the improvement of livestock welfare and secure the livelihoods of the people who depend on them.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
VF: At school I really enjoyed my science lessons and had a great science teacher who understood my way of learning, enabling me to do well in this subject.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
VF: The fact that every day is novel and challenging, trying to create innovative ways to solve problems.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
VF: Within my role I undertake fieldwork which involved engaging with local communities within developing countries. I really enjoy finding participatory ways to communicate science and receive feedback from the communities to a varying audience, sometimes in the absence of spoken language. Soapbox science appealed to me as another medium for me to communicate science in a fun and enjoyable way and hopefully inspire the next generation of scientists.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
VF: Openness to the public
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
VF: To be driven, determined to succeed and to grasp and create opportunities as they arise.