Fabulous mentors kept me inspired: Meet Emma Lane

Emma_LaneDr Emma Lane is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University.  Emma was born in London and studied Pharmacology for her first degree, before doing a PhD in Neuropharmacology at KCL, focusing on novel therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  Emma spent 2 years working in Sweden after her PhD where she specialised on understanding the side effects of cell transplantation for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. She then moved to Cardiff for a second post-doc position after meeting Prof Dunnett from Cardiff University at a conference in the US where Emma was presenting her work. She came to Cardiff for a three year contract, single……10 years later she has a husband, 2 children, a lectureship and her own research group.



SS: How did you get to your current position?

EL: In 2009 I was working as a post-doc in Cardiff University School of Biosciences and had contacted the School of Pharmacy about whether I could deliver some lectures for them to get some teaching experience. I ended up being seconded into the school to deliver material after the module leader left the School.  A lectureship was the advertised and I applied! 5 years later (whilst on maternity leave) I was promoted to Senior Lecturer.


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?

EL: My mum was a nurse, my dad a policeman, and I was always fascinated by the idea that legal and illegal drugs could have such huge effects on the body and brain that were both therapeutics and dangerous. I wanted to understand why, and discovered a fascination for chemicals known as monoamines which influence lots of different function of the brain


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

EL: My main research is focused on treating Parkinson’s disease with stem cells, repairing the damage caused by this devastating, progressive disease, by putting new cells directly into the damaged brain.  We need to understand how the drugs used to treat the disease, might affect the way these new cells behave if we use them as a therapy, will they help or hinder? I love being at the transition of lab science moving into the clinic and seeing how the lab work can directly influence clinical trial design and chances of success.


SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

EL: The novelty of the set up, the challenge of talking about my research and making it accessible and engaging to anyone who wants to listen, and the added challenge of having to draw people in!


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?

EL: I would like there to be greater weight placed on the scientific value of the project you are proposing, rather than your track record.  It is incredibly difficult for anyone to progress or get grant funding if you have a gap in your track record, or to get that ever important first foot on the ladder of significant grant income.  It’s a hard financial climate for everyone, but the need to compete with people who haven’t got that break (which is necessary if you want a family) adds additional pressure to female scientists in particular. In theory science is a family friendly career, in reality it’s a life choice which needs much more than a 9-5 job.


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia? 

EL: I had fabulous female mentors from an early stage in my career, their advice and support was invaluable. Having someone independent to help give you perspective on where you are now, and where you want to be in the future, is incredibly useful in keeping you inspired and on track, especially when the chips are down.


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