Category Archives: Careers

Challenges and ambitions for career progression that supports diversity.

FMS EDI WEEK PROGRAMME: 24th-28TH febrUARY 2020

It’s back – FMS is holding its second Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week, and we hope to see you there!

After last year’s success including the celebration of our Athena SWAN Silver Award, we are holding the Faculty’s second EDI Week for staff and students! We have a range of events lined up and listed below so that you can hear about the progress and ongoing work around EDI, and learn more about current issues that might be relevant to you.

Don’t miss out – take a look at what we’ve got lined up and book yourself in! We hope to see you at one of our events!

#FMSEDIWeek2020


Monday 24th February:

  • The EDI Strategy & Our Day-to-day Roles – 10-11.30am, FMS Boardroom
    To launch the week we’ll be hearing from a number of panellists within the Faculty and beyond, talking about how they would like to interpret and translate our EDI strategy in their day-to-day roles. Read more and register.
  • Multicultural Event – 12:30-2pm, David Shaw Foyer
    Organised by the Dental School, this event aims to celebrate our staff/student community by sharing presentations about the various cultures, faiths, traditions and foods within FMS. All are welcome to attend!

Tuesday 25th February:

  • Imposter Syndrome with Rachel Tobbell – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This interactive workshop will explore the experiences of ‘Imposter Syndrome’: how it affects us, how societal pressures can exacerbate the problem, how such internal doubts impact on our lives and what we can do to manage those feelings. Read more and register.

Wednesday 26th February:

  • LGBT Lives – 12-2pm, Ridley Building 2, Room 1.58
    As part of celebrations for LGBTQ+ History month as well as EDI Week, come along and listen to a panel discussion with members of the Rainbow LGBTQ+ staff network as they delve into the day-to-day experiences of working and being LGBTQ+ at Newcastle and in HE. Read more and register.

Thursday 27th February:

  • Breakfast with Athene Donald – 9.30-10.30am, FMS Boardroom
    Join the Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, Athene Donald for this session, aimed primarily at ECRs and Fellows, in which you can discuss reconciling the risks of a contract-based research career with a long term vision of making a difference in academia. Breakfast included! Read more and register here.
  • Plenary with Athene Donald: The Art of Survival – 12.30-2.00pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    As a longstanding champion of women in academia, Athene Donald will talk about her experiences and strategies developed during her career to help her succeed, and the value of passing on such knowledge to help others survive within institutions. Read more and register here.

Friday 28th February:

  • Personal Resilience: A taster session, with Lisa Rippingale – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This workshop aims to provide participants with a range of tools and techniques to develop their personal resilience. Read more and register here.

Demystifying Leadership: Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies (Ruth Valentine)

Our previous student intern, Georgia Spencer, interviewed Dr Ruth Valentine as part of our Demystifying Leadership blog series to learn all about what the role of Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies entails.

What are your main responsibilities in your role?

I’m the Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies, meaning I support the Dean of Undergraduate Studies in shaping, developing, and enhancing the Undergraduate programme in FMS.

The most important part of my job is quality assurance, meaning I must ensure the programmes that we deliver are of the standard that they should be. A large part of my role is also strategic; developing new programmes, making decisions, and leading projects, so I often need to approach tasks with a business head. I also work with the learning and teaching staff to ensure a culture in which they feel fully supported and recognised.

The Deputy Dean position is my second role, and has been somewhat of an add on to my other job within the School of Dental Science. There, my research is in nutrient gene interactions, with a specific focus on zinc and fluoride.

What does an average day look like for you?

As I’m sure many others in roles such as these have said, there just isn’t an average day. As I essentially have two roles, my days are a mix of both, which has been difficult. I try to do two days a week in the Faculty Office, but I’m often juggling my commitments in each area.

Since stepping into the role, I’ve dropped some of my research, and officially I now just do teaching and scholarships, I’ve found that my responsibilities as Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies fit better with teaching than research. However, I do still feel like I do research, as my role is often like market research; investigating how to develop a great program through methods such as student surveys and reviews.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love this role as it allows me to have influence at a University level, not just in Dentistry. I’m very passionate about widening participation and inspiring the next generation, and as Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies, I have been able to push for this across the whole Faculty. For example, considering how take home exams will work for those without internet access at home, and how the University can help to fund trips. I feel very proud of this and our widening participation numbers.

I also like that I’m able to check everything and be very thorough. I can look across the whole Faculty and see how certain areas can be improved. I can make sure I’m questioning everything, and asking the right questions, such as why we’re assessing students in a certain way, or if they like it. I find this really interesting, as I can be inquisitive about everything. The job also gives me a real sense of satisfaction when new programmes I’ve helped design are rolled out to students.

What do you feel you get out of your role?

Firstly, I feel like it gives me a platform to fight for the students and ensure that they’re being prioritised. I love that we can support them through schemes such as the Intu Scheme, for students who aren’t quite ready. This means we never have to compromise the quality of our degree programmes, and can be proud that they’re really good, but we can still give extra support to the students who need it to make sure everything is still fair.

What do you think is your biggest achievement in your role?

In the long term, I feel that championing widening participation and helping to eradicate the elitist attitude that has existed in Universities historically has been my biggest achievement, simply because I feel so strongly that this is very important. My role has given me a bigger arena to make a difference, which is such a special position to be in.

I’ve also loved introducing a new program, Dietetics, which starts in 2020. I feel that I got it through the Faculty and got it to the place where the DPD can create a fantastic course. It will be in the new building, with new kitchens and sensory booths, which is just great.

What made you want to apply for the role?

When I applied, I was doing an Associate Postgraduate Taught role and really wanted to learn more about Undergraduate, as well as expanding my influence to create change. Really, I just saw this role as a progression from my Postgraduate Taught role. As Deputy Undergraduate Dean, I still look after the quality assurance of Postgraduate Taught, so I continue have elements of my old job incorporated into this one.

Before I applied, I chatted informally with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies about the role and how it would impact my career development, which gave me a clearer view of whether the position was right for me. I was also helped to apply by my close colleagues. They encouraged me, supported me, and gave me the confidence to put my name forward.

Have you had any prior leadership roles or training opportunities that helped prepare you for this role?

I did the Leadership Foundation Programme for the Directors of Excellence in Learning and Teaching, where I found out a lot more about leadership. I was then put forward for the Academic Leaders Programme by the Faculty, which was a programme run in cooperation between Durham and Newcastle. I found this programme really helpful; especially elements such as the 360 feedback, and the small leadership sessions on coaching, which was a really useful technique that I’ve used since. I also was able to make valuable links with people in other Faculties and at Durham, including more senior people who were able to advise me. I also had mentorship from NU Women when I first took on my prior role.

In my interview for my previous role, I had to do a five-minute presentation about my vision for the role. No prompts. No PowerPoint. But I’d say this was a great learning experience, as it helped to show me that I can speak up and champion causes.

What have you learnt since starting your role?

I think a key thing its taught me is that I’m more of a strategy person and I don’t want to manage people so much. This has helped to confirm for me that I’m in the right role and on the right path. I’ve also reduced my research, which I never would’ve seen myself doing three or four years ago. This has really helped shape the direction of my career.

My position has also given me a lot of insight into the wider University as a whole. I never realised when I applied that I’d be involved with Kings Gate, for example. It’s allowed me to branch out and make a difference both across other Faculties, as well as externally at a national level.

What have you found more challenging in your role?

I’ve found time management difficult, because I’ve tried to do it all. But I’ve learnt from this that you simply can’t. Something has to give; you can’t do it all. But I feel like I’ve got the balance right now. I’ve accepted my own capabilities and I let go of my previous admissions responsibilities, which has given me more time. I’ve gained more confidence in saying no and have learnt to delegate.

I initially dreaded working on appeals. But I’ve learnt that I’m not that bad at them, and I’m proud that I’ve shown others and myself that I can do it.

How do you balance the role with your other commitments?

With two small children, it’s been important to have a really good attitude towards work-life balance. Even though no academic role is 9-5, really good time management during the day, as well as delegating to others, has helped give me my evenings with my family. I’m also very strict on not checking emails during holidays and there’s very little travel involved in my role, other than the occasional conference in London.

My line manager has also been very aware and very understanding of my family commitments. For example, with the University Education Committee which starts at 8am, she’s very understanding if I’m not able to get there for it. Sometimes, you just have to decide you’re spending time with your family.

When it comes to my family, my husband is very supportive, and we share everything completely. I’d like to be a good role model to my daughter by being successful in my career while balancing it with my outside commitments.

Thank you to Ruth Valentine for taking the time to speak to us about her role! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the roles and responsibilities involved in being Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Studies (and a special thank you to Georgia for giving us such a wonderful series!).

Personal Histories: Adetunji Otemade

October was Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating black people in the UK. Through this Personal Histories blog series we hoped to honour our own staff and students at Newcastle by speaking to them about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to learn more about their stories and histories.

For our fourth and final blog in the series, we had a very interesting chat with Dental Sciences Teaching Fellow, Adetunji Otemade to find out more about his interests, perspectives and career.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

When I saw the job application I was in the process of relocating to New Zealand actually, to work in New Zealand and well… things changed! I’ve always wanted to go into academia and obviously how I applied was a last minute thing, but I got the interview, got the job and it’s been great since then. I’ve always been around in the North East because I did my bachelor’s degree at Teesside University and went on to do my masters at Teesside as well, so I would consider myself a Northerner.

How did you become involved in your role?

I trained as a Dental Hygienist and Therapist and after my first degree I worked in practice for a while, then worked within communities. I’ve always felt a keen interest and a spark when it comes to research, so I went ahead and did a master’s in Public Health. When I finished my master’s degree I worked down south in London with an NHS Trust where I  was involved with various dental outreach projects which include dental care for the elderly in care homes, dental care for the homeless and primary school visits. After my master’s degree I wanted to do a PhD which was a reason why I was looking to go abroad, but then this job came up and I just feel it’s a perfect fit.

When it comes to pursuing a PhD degree or research in general, in our profession as Dental Hygienists and Therapists, we don’t necessarily have lots of people going ahead and doing PhDs – we do have a couple staff around here that have got their PhD and it’s actually following their footsteps and doing something worthwhile, but at the same time doing something that you enjoy and contributing to the profession as a whole. So yeah, it’s been a long journey; I actually started as a dental nurse back in 2007 which was when I moved up to the UK from Nigeria.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your role?

I love photography, and I do a blog – a men’s style, men’s fashion blog, just taking photos and writing about how to dress and stuff. Hopefully it’s still working because I can’t remember the last time I posted, with my workload and trying to balance that. I enjoy photography as well, grabbing my camera, going out and taking shots and pictures. But yeah, my main hobby outside of the University is basically fashion photography and blogging.

I love music as well and I’m trying to combine my love for music with the kind of research that I’m doing in terms of music therapy, or how music affects our brains when it comes to managing anxiety in patients.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

On a professional level I would say getting to where I am today; it’s been a long journey considering the background that I came from. I’ve always been in an academic environment as my dad taught at a higher institution before he retired, and my mum as a primary school teacher and eventually as a head teacher before she retired. However, it’s not been an easy journey. I had to leave university during the first year of my animal science degree back then. My reason for leaving was because I was young and dumb; however, the constant university strike that was rampant in the country back then did not really help either. I was lucky to have my aunty who happened to come over to Nigeria from the UK on a visit and thought the environment was not really ideal or working for me and made plans for me to come over, all of which only took about 4 months. So finding myself in this environment from somewhere where you’ve struggled in the past and it’s taken you loads to actually get to know yourself, to get to a place where you have a master’s degree and hopefully start your PhD… It’s a great achievement.

Aside from my work and academics I would say it’s having a family, having my kids.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

It’s a difficult one, you know. In terms of challenges I would say looking back it’s been very difficult to climb the career ladder, so to speak, and I think it depends on the level that you are, for example if you’re starting from scratch.

In terms of my profession, being a dental nurse back in the day used to be mainly dominated by females so I’ve experienced sort of, like, discrimination along the lines. Things are changing now but we still have a long way to go in the UK and the world generally when it comes to making things equal for men, women, people from different races and backgrounds, sexual orientation and everything. Sometimes it’s very difficult to cope with the fact that you’ve lectured, you’ve taught students here, you’ve mixed with lots of people, and on your way home you still get racially abused. In 2019. So yeah, so that’s a very big challenge.

What inspires you?

Life. Knowledge. And self. I just see life as a journey, and I feel we need to appreciate knowledge and cherish it. Once you’re knowledgeable – well, you can’t know everything – but once you’re more knowledgeable it makes you much more informed and when you know your rights and you know what’s right for you then that can be moved through life, knowing that you know. And in terms of life, as we all live on this planet, we are all human beings regardless of where you’re from, your sexual orientation, religion and everything and as long as other people are happy then you can be happy. So that’s what inspires me, and seeing everyone achieving their full potential is something that I cherish a lot. I think that that’s what brought me to this role because you want to inspire knowledge and inspire the next generation of young kids who will go ahead and do greater things.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture, favourite music, films, food, literature etc?

Food! Being a Nigerian man, we don’t joke with our food. So local food, I know lots of people talk about jollof rice and stuff like that, but personally for me, a food called iyan which is yam flour meal, pounded yam, or you have eba (made from cassava). I think they now call those types of food swallow – that was something I heard recently – I went to Nigeria last year but it’s been a while and things have changed since moving over here, emergence of these new things. So swallow is any food that is made like maize meal, cassava meal, those types of foods and you eat them with spicy sauce, vegetables and stuff with meat, fish; that’s a big thing. So food is very important and special. Then it’s just the culture, the music and swag; I don’t know if people are aware of it but African music is poppin’ right now. The likes of Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Runtown, just to mention a few, are popular at the moment. So yeah, definitely the food and the music.

What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?

Obviously because my early education is not from the UK I don’t really know much about Black History Month, whereas if you ask my son or my children they will know as they’ve been taught. But having lived in the UK for quite a while now I understand that from a Western perspective Black History Month is basically to celebrate the achievements of black people in the UK, to look back and see how far they’ve come, the struggles and how far they still need to go as a community.

In terms of the context of Black History Month here it’s all about the achievements of black people through the Windrush and I think that’s the lens that we normally use. But as Africans, or western Africans we have a different history even compared to the Caribbean and everything. For example, as far as I’m aware in my family we’ve had great great grandparents or family members who migrated to the UK around the 1920s and there is little that we know about it – what I’m trying to say is that there’s lots of different ‘black’ history and I don’t know… To try and pull everything together and celebrate a month, I don’t think that works. But having said that, if that’s something we need to do for the purpose of equality which includes every race, then we just have to do it and keep working with it.

As a Nigerian I would say I don’t see myself as black and I have never seen myself as a black man until arriving in the UK. I am a human being who is fortunate to be born in the part of the world I was born. I just feel I’m now in an environment where we have these labels and systems. However, this is where we are now and in order to make a change and spread the message that we are all human then I need to make my voice heard. We have blacks, Caucasians – we’re all human beings. I think I’m at that stage where I’m still trying to understand why we have to have this month – what about people of Chinese origin, Asian origin – are we going to have history for everyone? But this is what we’ve got now so we’ve got to work with it.

Thank you so much to Adetunji for doing this interview with us – we are so grateful, and really enjoyed hearing his perspectives. And the music recommendations have not gone unappreciated!

That’s one of the best parts about celebrating one another and sharing our stories or ideas with others – you never know what you might learn, or the impact that a fresh perspective could have. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our Personal Histories blog series, and we would encourage you to get involved

If you would like to speak to us about yourself, a topic you’re interested in or maybe even an event you’re involved with, we would be more than happy to share it on our blog. The more interactive the better, so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Personal Histories: Sara Elkhawad

This October is Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. To honour our staff and students here at Newcastle, we’re continuing our Personal Histories blog series to learn more about them and their stories.

In this blog, we spoke to Sara Elkhawad, the current NUSU Equality and Welfare Officer, to learn more about her interests, aspects of her culture, and what she thinks of Black History Month. Sara has been working extremely hard this month running her campaign, Black Is Gold; so far it has included a culture-filled fashion show, a panel discussion in collaboration with the Great Debate Tour, campaign series to educate on the impact of racism, and the finale this evening with a closing party run by student DJs. For more details about these amazing events, click here.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a while – I didn’t have that kind of vocational dream of doing medicine or whatever, so I chose to do English literature at Newcastle quite last minute. But then I went to the visit day and actually really liked it, so I put it first. My mum was really happy because she was an alumni so she was like, ‘Wow my life is now being recreated through my daughter!’ But I really love it here so it was probably the best decision I ever made, even though it was a last minute decision.

How did you become involved in your role?

I studied English literature at university and it’s something that I thought about a lot during my third year, so I applied last year really hoping that I’d get in. I guess Welfare and Equality Officer’s always been something that I’ve been interested in because of the charitable aspect, the mental health aspect of it and I love doing events and stuff so the campaigns aspect too. Also, being the first black woman that had ever gone for this role and the second person of colour that had been on the team was a big motivation of mine because I felt like I could represent the voices that I related to. So I applied, and since then I’ve realised that it has been the perfect job for me because I get to do lots of stuff to do with wellbeing and mental health which is something that is close to my heart, but also campaigning for people that are underrepresented. Not just black people, but people of marginalised genders, LGBT+, disabled people, etc. It’s been really, really eye opening for me and even showed me where a lot of my strengths and weaknesses are, so I’ve learnt a lot as well.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of your role?

I like writing poetry – I actually haven’t recently because I’ve been so busy, but yeah, I write a lot of poetry. For my dissertation, instead of doing a dissertation I did a creative portfolio so I did poetry for that. I do spoken word as well as written poetry, I guess it’s to do with finding an emotional release sometimes. I’m not a good singer or anything so I like to kind of rap through written words instead.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

I guess Black History Month. Obviously I haven’t been in this job for that long, since June, but it’s been really successful – on our opening night, 200 people turned up which was amazing! Any event at the Students’ Union that gets that kind of turnout is incredible, and since then we had a really good turnout at the debate that we had. We’ve had really good feedback from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and high up in the university which has been amazing. Lots of students have got really involved as well as the local community so that for me has been really amazing because it’s something that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into. It’s also kind of controversial; with it being called Black is Gold and focusing on black achievements and black excellence, I think some people who aren’t within that ethnic group feel a little bit triggered by it, or have their own opinions about it, so I’ve obviously had some controversial comments too but in general it’s been a very positive campaign so I’m really happy.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Being the only person of my background and sitting in a room where everyone else is white and predominantly male; you don’t have that set of privileges, and sometimes you feel not as confident to use your voice and you come across natural barriers to stuff. Not everyone agrees with your way of thinking or agrees with the same issues because they haven’t been through the same things that I’ve been through, so when I try and articulate what black people need or what black people want, it hasn’t necessarily always had the immediate response that I would expect from someone that was black. So it’s the kind of feeling that I’m the only one that will ever fit my shoes in this university realm and in the union as well.

I guess just adjusting to the role in general, too – there’s so much to do. Being a trustee of the union which is essentially like chairing a charity, making sure that the union is well governed… there’s so many aspects that I didn’t realise I’d have to do so I’m maturing a lot!

What inspires you?

The people around me inspire me a lot. I think the liberation officers (the people who voluntarily represent marginalised groups) like the Racial Equality officer, LGBT officer, are amazing because they’re the kind of people who are standing up directly for those voices. They make me learn a lot about my own knowledge and privileges which is great. In terms of other people, probably people like Akala who’s an inspirational speaker and rapper and understands the ins and outs of blackness, and the myths about it as well.

I think also my environment; the fact that I’ve grown up in quite a diverse area in London meeting people who generally have the same political outlooks on life, but also the same kind of music and cultural interests as me. Coming to a city that is a little bit less diverse has been quite eye opening in a negative and positive way, because obviously I have felt discriminated against and had prejudice against me but also I’ve been able to use my race as a platform to make sure we improve as a university in terms of that kind of stuff. That’s been interesting because I think when I came to university I didn’t really have the same racial consciousness that I have gained now from being at Newcastle, so that’s been quite inspiring.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture?

I am half East African, so half from Sudan. It’s quite a different environment from what other people understand as Africa; a lot of people understand ‘black’ as West Africa and the Caribbean. One of my favourite bits is the sense of family and community, it’s like no one ever leaves you alone! Which is hard because Britain is such an isolated culture in comparison, people like their downtime and like just spending time by themselves but you don’t get that in Sudan. There’s a lot of eating together; you have this big round plate that everyone spins and eats from, and there’s about a million weddings so you’re always seeing people which is really lovely.

Falafel is quite a big part of my diet – obviously I don’t eat falafel on a daily basis, but my family have created this sort of secret family recipe from it, so that’s a big part of my East African culture. We’ve got beautiful pyramids in Sudan – everyone thinks that Egypt have all the pyramids but Sudan actually has like three times the amount and no one ever goes there. When I went to go see them, there was literally no one there apart from the people who were leading us and the camels, so that’s pretty cool.

What do you think about when you hear Black History Month?

I think what other people think they hear Black History Month is that they automatically think of slavery and civil rights, so when black people were slaves and how black people got over slavery. Especially within that, African American history so we’ve got people like Martin Luther King who fought for civil rights and did an amazing job, but again it’s not British black history.

So now when I think of Black History and what this campaign Black Is Gold is meant to do, I sort of want to draw away from slavery and unearth narratives that like have been silenced by slavery. Before slavery and since slavery, black people were kings and queens and are kings and queens; we have Meghan Markle for example, who is literally in the royal family in the UK. Or within the Roman era, you had Nubian empires with black East African kings and queens. So I guess for me it’s about black excellence and beauty, rather than black colonialism and slavery, and yes black British history in the past but also now. The people that are paving the way, like Stormzy, or singers like Jorja Smith and Akala are really important black figures that are informing British culture and making history, even though we don’t really see it like that.

Thank you so much to Sara for taking the time to speak to us during this busy time! The work she has been doing this month is admirable, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about her story and perspective. #BlackIsGold

If you would be interested in talking to us about yourself as part of this series, or know someone else who would, we would love to hear from you! To take part, please contact Claire Bailie.

Personal Histories: Anne Oyewole

This October is Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the history, achievements and contributions of black people in the UK. Although we should honour the successes throughout the year, it provides a special focus on their lives and experiences. 

We want to honour our own staff around the University, by learning more about their interests, likes and dislikes and aspects of their culture, to get a sense of their stories and histories. 

For our first blog, we spoke to Anne Oyewole, a Research Associate currently working with the Stroke Research Group, to find out more about her.

How did you end up in Newcastle?

About 13 years ago I applied for an MRes at Northumbria University and ended up being awarded the post which was a collaboration with a chemical company, so that was unique and fun. I thought at the time because I was coming up from London that I would only be here for a year, but one year evolved into thirteen years! Since then I have completed my PhD at Newcastle University and held a few postdoc positions, so it’s great to still be here.

How did you become involved in your role?

I completed my PhD in Dermatology followed by a couple of postdoc positions in this department. I then joined  the Neuromuscular team within the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre (based at the Centre for Life) as the Post-marketing Surveillance Coordinator. In this role, I was responsible for supporting pharmaceutical companies with Phase IV studies for their licensed therapies. I was keen to gain more hands on experience setting up and delivering a clinical study, so I moved to the Stroke Research Group, where I am coordinating a clinical study evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of a point of care device. All the expertise, knowledge and experience I have gained over the last decade have been extremely valuable and helped me to secure my new role (which I’ll start in December 2019) as the Programme Manager for medical devices, diagnostics and digital technologies within the NIHR-Innovation Observatory, the national medical horizon scanning facility based at Newcastle University.

What are your main hobbies and interests outside of work?

I’m very passionate about dancing. I love dancing, in particular Bollywood dancing which I do at Dance City. I also enjoy ballroom and Latin dancing and Afro Mix, which is a mixture of different African styles of dance. I love cooking dishes from all over the world and I’m often inviting friends over, so that I can cook and bake for them. Over the last few years, I’ve set myself cooking/baking goals and this year my goal is to improve my bread baking skills as well as perfect my pastry techniques. So far this year I’ve enjoyed making croissants, naan bread, shortcrust pastry, bagels, Challah and all sorts.

What would you regard as your proudest achievement?

Though I have a lot to be proud of, one that stands out for me is having done my A levels and not getting the grade that I was expecting. Getting a lower grade meant I didn’t get into my first choice university and I remember at that time feeling my whole world had crumbled around me, it seemed very difficult to see how I was going to move forward. My family were all very supportive, and said, “It really wouldn’t be terrible to go to your second choice!” Although I wasn’t expecting to go to my second choice university, I continued and had a great time there. My passion and joy for science didn’t diminish in that time – if anything it increased, and so I was inspired and encouraged to go on to pursue postgraduate studies.

I think the thing I am proud of is that at the time it was difficult to see how things would come together, but actually things have turned out really well. Something that my parents instilled within me was to appreciate my education and to be disciplined and work hard. Being disciplined has been a real blessing as I’ve been able to go on from my Biology degree to complete my MRes (Masters) and PhD as well as to go on with my research career.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

Completing my PhD thesis!

I think some of the challenges I experienced before and during my PhD journey helped me to develop a good measure of resilience, which was so important in getting me through the writing up phase of my PhD, along with a supportive supervisor (Prof. Mark Birch-Machin) and my family and friends. Obviously in life there are always going to be challenges we face that don’t always lead to a positive outcome but I’ve been reminded recently through personal challenging circumstances I’m facing, that these times can be good opportunities to learn and grow.

What inspires you?

One of the things that shapes me would be my Christian faith. My trust in and love for Jesus inspires and encourages me to look out for and love other people. My faith is also the reason I love science – I love learning more about our universe and understanding more about the human body.

Can you give me a selection of your favourite things from your culture?

I mentioned dancing and that’s definitely something from my culture as well as listening/dancing to Afrobeats, there’s a real joy in being able to move so freely and rhythmically to the beat – I love that! I love wearing colourful clothing and eating Nigerian food such as jollof rice with plantain and moi moi. Growing up in London meant that I was exposed to a lot of different cultures, so as well as enjoying eating food from other countries I enjoyed learning about different cultures too.

In the Nigerian culture it’s very important that you respect your elders and this is instilled within you from a child. I’m really thankful that this is the case, as It’s sad when I see older people in our society not being respected or just ignored because their ideas, opinions, knowledge, expertise and life experience are not seen as valuable, which is not the case! Older people have so much to contribute to our society.

What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?

Firstly, I think of the legacy left by great heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr and Harriet Tubman and countless unsung heroes. It’s great that we have the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of so many black people throughout history this October. Whilst there is lots to celebrate, Black History Month is still a reminder that there is still lots to be done to bring about further change. Going forward it’s important to see more engagement and open dialogue on current racial issues across all sectors of our society, as so many people today still face discrimination because of their ethnicity.

Thank you so much to Anne for taking the time to speak with us. We hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit more about her and her story (and maybe have been inspired to try some baking?).

We’ll hopefully be running this blog series for the next few weeks, so if you would be interested in talking to us about yourself, or know someone else who would, we would love to hear from you! To take part, please contact Claire Bailie.