Women have strong contributions to make to the world: Meet Claire Grierson

Claire-Grierson.jpgClaire Grierson (@PR0FG) is a Professor based at University of Bristol. Her research is about development and differentiation – that is, how molecules and cells become organised.  Claire will be standing on one of our London soapboxes, on the SouthBank 2-5pm, to talk about “Synthetic Biology – Designing Life”



SS: Claire, how did you get to your current position?

CG: The inspiration of a thought-provoking family, great teachers and lecturers, the support and kindness of friends, a stubborn feeling that I couldn’t bear to do anything else, the hard work of myself and colleagues, and a good dose of luck!


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

​CG: Many, many people. My parents, who encourage a love for history and nature, and a belief that science can make sense of the world. School teachers, such as my A level Chemistry teacher, who showed me I could predict the behaviour of substances using a few simple rules and the periodic table. University Lecturers, such as George Salmond, who challenged us to be as insightful and inventive as great molecular genetics pioneers, and Lynn Roberts, whose excitement about recent discoveries showed how close we were to new knowledge.


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

CG: I absolutely love working with people from other disciplines and cultures, and pulling together literature and ideas from multiple fields, to potentially understand something in a new way. There is no greater buzz than discovery!


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

​CG: It’s a great idea. Women have strong contributions to make to the world. We are all better off if women’s insights and voices are heard. Sadly, we can’t take being heard for granted, so we need initiatives like this.


SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? fear? thrill? anticipation?

​CG: I’m excited and a bit nervous. I want to make a good contribution to the day.​


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

CG: Can I change two things? First, we should reduce the pressure to meet targets (numbers of papers, impact factors, etc.) and instead make discoveries that stand the test of time. Too many papers are published due to pressure to publish, instead of when a group are pretty sure they’ve discovered something. Also, progress is slowed because people are driven to protect their job security instead of doing the very best science they can. We need a culture that rewards the best scientists, not the most competitive game players. Second, I would teach everyone from 5 – 85 years old about unconscious bias and the damage it potentially does to all human endeavour.


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

CG: If your passionate about it, go ahead!

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