Dr Bethan Monk

Dr Bethan Monk is clearly inspired by the ever-changing world of science and the journey it takes her on during her research.

"Science moves so quickly. Every day you do new experiments to answer new questions. Every few months you find yourself looking back at your work and you see the path you have taken from one piece of data to the next. It’s exciting to see where it will lead you next!"

In May 2016 Bethan completed her PhD entitled 'Investigating the effect of Wnt proteins on VSMC behaviour and vessel remodelling during ageing'.

During her PhD she also had the opportunity to submit abstracts for national and international conferences, which she said, "provided me with the opportunity to improve my presenting skills and develop a network of contacts to aid my career development."

In September 2016 she began a Research Associate role in the University of Bristol. This new role continues from her involvement in Professor Sarah George’s group and will focus on the optimisation of therapeutics to prevent re-stenosis following vein grafting.

In between these two roles she was employed by the University as a Research Technician, in Professor George’s group, performing experiments to complete work from her PhD for publication.

"Professor George went out of her way to organise this opportunity for me so that she was supported financially while we were awaiting the outcome of the Research Associate grant. This made huge difference to me personally during this time."

Bethan married in May 2016, and is keenly aware of the tensions she may face when it comes to starting a family.

"To get a postdoctoral position or above, there are six or more years of training through undergraduate, masters and PhD levels. This means you haven’t started your postdoctoral career until you are in your mid-20s at least.

"Personally, I find there is conflict between wanting to progress up the career ladder after completing my studies, and starting a family.

"I worry that taking a break from my career may limit my career progression."

But she is upbeat about the support that she has seen the school and university offering to other postdoctoral students in her lab through maternity leave and support for promotions and she is confident it will be there for her if and when the time comes.

"I think we need men and women in high positions in STEMM areas to encourage more young men and women to apply for these subjects at university.

"If a young person sees that high-achieving role models in a field are biased to one gender, we risk giving the impression that only men or women are more likely to succeed in this or that particular field and discouraging them from applying.’

And it looks like the school is doing well on this score.

"There is no gender imbalance in the lab I work in, or indeed any of the labs where I work. I can get advice from both male and female colleagues and see the challenges from both perspectives."

In fact, her only frustrations seem to be directed at the experiments when they don’t always work and need time-consuming adjustments to the methodology.

Looking beyond her daily experiments, Bethan sees her career continuing in research, either in academia or industry.

She would also like to get involved in spreading the word about science in a communication role of some sort so it’s interesting to hear her advice to other women who are thinking about a career in science.

"There are an increasing number of women in top positions in science. Ask them how they progressed to that level and how they balance home and family life with career progression."

There is no gender imbalance in any of the labs where I work. I can get advice from both male and female colleagues and see the challenges from both perspectives.

Dr Bethan Monk, Research Associate
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