Kyra De Coninck (@KyraDeConinck) is a Lecturer at the University of Kent. She will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Getting under your skin: the secret life of fascia”
SS:How did you get to your current position?
KDC: My name is Kyra De Coninck, I’m originally from Belgium, and have lived in the UK since 1986. I came to academia later in life, and not via the usual route. I studied Social Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Sussex. I then took a break from academia, started a small publishing press and music record label, worked as a translator and interpreter, and worked in Eastern Europe for the Prince’s Trust. I also ran my own sports massage practice, and taught massage courses to wide range of professionals ranging from physiotherapists and osteopaths to midwives and prison wardens! I was then invited to teach sports massage as part of a degree in sport therapy, and after a couple of years became a full-time member of staff at the University of Kent. I now teach a range of modules ranging from a beginners’ sports massage course to a module on advanced neuromuscular therapy.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
KDC: I was not particularly interested in mathematics or science in school. My hands inspired me in the end. When I was a massage practitioner, I was fascinated how different tissues felt right under skin. Particularly, areas such as the lower back, could feel either spongy, rigid or swollen. How could this be in an area with literally just skin over bone? This lead me onto the road of research into the structure and function of fascia, a little known body-wide network of connective tissue. I have always been inspired by women who ask questions, who are not afraid to ask difficult or awkward questions. My heroine in my subject area is Professor Helene Langevin at Harvard University, she investigates the behaviour of cancer cells in connective tissues.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
KDC: People! I work with many different kinds of people, experts in pain physiology, biomechanics, or muscle function to name but a few. I also teach many different kinds of students, as my work involves teaching hands-on skills, I get to know my students well during the years they are with us. Seeing students grow, change and develop confidence makes my job worth doing.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
KDC: I bumped into a Soapbox speaker on the South Bank in London and was really amazed by her research on soil quality. I loved how she turned a very technical subject area into a fascinating, perplexing and relevant topic. I started following other Soapbox speakers on Twitter. So when I was invited to join the Canterbury Soapbox speakers, I jumped at the chance. I’m very keen on communicating my research to a whole range of people, beyond the academic conferences.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
KDC: I would like scientists to be braver, to look beyond the boundaries of one’s discipline and be curious about other ‘tribes’.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
KDC: Spend time finding a good supervisor, don’t sweat the small stuff, and never ever ever give up.