Dr Lana McClements is a lecturer and researcher at Queen’s University Belfast. You can catch Lana on her soapbox at the Belfast event on 24th June 2017 giving a talk called: “Diabetes and Pregnancy”
SS: Lana, how did you get to your current position?
LM: My path in academia followed an unconventional route for a scientist. I came to the UK from Serbia 17 years ago, following a turbulent time of war and uncertainty. I completed a Master in Pharmacy at King’s College London and embarked on the clinical path as a Resident Pharmacist at the Imperial College Healthcare Trust in London. I spent three years working as a rotational (different medical specialities) and resident (a lot of on-calls) Clinical Pharmacist and completed Postgraduate Certificate in Pharmacy Practice. Following this fantastic experience, which equipped with solid clinical skills I became a Senior Clinical Pharmacist at the biggest private hospital in Europe, the Wellington hospital. During this time I also completed Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy. Having gained substantial clinical and leadership experience I came to Belfast to pursue my dream of working in translational medicine research field which I always felt passionate about. I was very fortunate to have a supportive supervisor and a great role model, Prof. Tracy Robson, who was instrumental in my career progression from a Postdoctoral Research Scientist to a Lecturer at the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
LM: Throughout primary and secondary education, I have always enjoyed studying. However, it was not until I started my degree in Pharmacy that I realised science is what I feel passionate about. Being in a position to discover something new, which can change people’s lives, is what excites me the most about science. Through my clinical training, I was able to witness first-hand how science can be applied to practice and change people’s lives, which is truly satisfying.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
LM: Pregnancy is the most exciting and fascinating experience in every woman’s life. However, fear of the unknown and the fact that body goes through major changes can scare people and make them anxious. This is particularly difficult if there are no reliable options to predict or prevent dangerous conditions during pregnancy. One of these conditions, pre-eclampsia, characterised by high blood pressure and kidney or other organ damage is problematic only in a small percentage of women without any pre-existing conditions however in women who suffer from diabetes this can become an apprehensive issue. The physiological changes during pregnancy including the development of placenta are truly fascinating however these processes are not well understood. My research is aiming to provide an insight into the mechanisms which can put women at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, and to devise strategies for targeting these irregular processes. We are striving to develop reliable markers of this disease which can predict the risk of pre-eclampsia early in pregnancy. This will enable us, then, to develop preventative treatments, which are currently lacking.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
LM: I have engaged in many public science events previously however Soapbox Science represents a different way of engaging with the public. Soapbox Science’s grass-root approach to science is very interesting and a challenging way of engaging with passing public. I am particularly attracted to the fact that it is based around women in science who I have been an advocate for over a number of years now. I have been a member of Gender Equality and Initiative committees at Queen’s University Belfast as a PhD student, Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer. I am excited to be part of an inspiration team of women who have been involved in running these events.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
LM: I expect to inspire budding scientists to get involved with science and discovery, and learn about placenta.
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
LM: Better female to male balance, particularly at higher positions, is a necessity in science right now. However, this is not just the issue of our industry but a cultural issue because women are expected to give up their professional dreams so that they can be called good mothers and wives. There are various ways to achieve this such as becoming a good role model and inspiring children to follow their dreams and passion even if these are not what society expects to see.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
LM: Do it but only if you feel passionate about science and research! Make sure you find a good balance in life that will make you happy.