I want to encourage girls to take up science – it is a fantastic job: Meet Joyce Harper

Joyce Harper (@ProfJoyceHarper) is Professor of Human Genetics and Embryology at University College London in the Institute for Women’s Health where she is head of the Reproductive Health Department, Principal Investigator of the Embryology, IVF and Reproductive Genetics Group, Director of Education and Director of the Centre for Reproductive Health.

She has worked on fertility and reproductive genetics for 30 years, originally working as a clinical embryologist and then working on preimplantation genetic testing.  She is currently working on the social, ethical and legal aspects of fertility treatment, concentrating on social egg freezing and reproductive genetics.  Joyce has published over 170 scientific papers and written two text books.

Joyce is passionate about public engagement to discuss all aspects of women’s health, including wellbeing.  She has established a public engagement group with regular posts and has just written a book covering women’s health from birth to death called ‘what every woman should know’.

In 2016 Joyce was one of the founders of the UK Fertility Education Initiative which aims to help people understand fertility, modern families and reproductive science.

You can catch Joyce on her soapbox at Soapbox Science London on 26th May where she will give a talk entitled: “Tick–tock of the biological clock – is egg freezing the answer?”



SS: How did you get to your current position?  

JH: After finishing my PhD, I wanted a break from academia and was looking through the jobs in New Scientist and found a job for a clinical embryologist.  I loved this job for 4 years, but I wanted to teach so I made use of my contacts to get a job at the Hammersmith Hospital and then University College London and I have been at UCL ever since.


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

JH: I was always wondering how life was made.  When I was 13, I went on a  school trip to a lab and realised that I wanted to do this job.  So I asked one of the women in the lab what I had to do to be a scientist and she said I had to get a PhD.  So that was that.  All decided.


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

JH: Everything.  I am always learning.  My field is continuously changing which makes it very exciting. I get to travel the world talking at International Conferences and I have made many wonderful friends.


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

JH: I am very passionate about teaching the public about science.  But also I want to encourage girls to take up science – it is a fantastic job.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day   

JH: Excitement.


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

JH: For people in my field to step back from the commercial aspects and do more basic science and R and D before they bring new technology into the clinic.


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

JH: You need to be passionate about the topic.  It is not about being the most intelligent person, you have to be inquisitive.

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