BBSRC Women in Science and Innovation
Women in research have changed the world. Members of our research community have played an important role in shaping the course of history with their commitment to the bioscience world.
Here are just some of the women that have worked with BBSRC and continue to provide inspiration to us all.
Professor Sarah Cleaveland, OBE
Veterinary surgeon and Professor of Comparative Epidemiology,
University of Glasgow
Professor Sarah Cleaveland obtained a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southampton in 1983 and a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Cambridge in 1988 followed by a PhD from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 1996 for research on canine distemper and rabies in the Serengeti of Tanzania.
At university Sarah was a member of the University of Cambridge’s Women’s Boat Club and rowed in the 1985 boat race. She subsequently worked at the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh, before moving on to the University of Glasgow in 2008 where she is a professor at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine and a member of the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health.
A large part of her research has focused on the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases in northern Tanzania, including rabies. Her work has involved the initiation of mass rabies vaccination programmes for domestic dogs in the Serengeti, which has not only indirectly prevented hundreds of human deaths, but also protected wildlife species such as the endangered African wild dog.
Her research has been funded by several funding agencies, including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust and Department for International Development.
She was a founding director of the Alliance for Rabies Control.
Sarah was the first woman to be awarded the British Veterinary Association Trevor Blackburn Award in 2008 in recognition of her work on animal and human infectious diseases in Africa. She was a founding director of the Alliance for Rabies Control, whose mission is to prevent human deaths caused by infection with the rabies virus and reduce the burden of this disease in animals. She was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2012, elected to the National Academy of Medicine in October 2015, and elected a Fellow of The Royal Society in April 2016. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to veterinary epidemiology.
Professor Melanie Welham
BBSRC Executive Chair and Visiting Professor at the University of Bath
Professor Melanie Welham is the Executive Chair of BBSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation.
Melanie was previously the interim Chief Executive of BBSRC and has been Executive Director, Science, at BBSRC, a role she held since joining the Council from the University of Bath in October 2012. At the University of Bath Melanie was Professor of Molecular Signalling and was the first woman to be appointed a professor in her department. She currently holds a visiting appointment at Bath.
Melanie obtained her first degree in Biochemistry from Imperial College London before undertaking a PhD at UCL. After 6-years as a post-doc in Vancouver, Canada, Melanie was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Bath. In 2003 she was awarded a BBSRC Research Development Fellowship, which enabled her to develop and pursue new research, seeking to understand the fundamental mechanisms controlling the behaviour of embryonic stem cells.
Melanie has a well-developed understanding of the requirements and demands of delivering BBSRC research and the interface between the Council and the wider research and innovation community. For more than four years she served on BBSRC peer review committees, including periods as either chair or co-chair. Melanie also served on the advisory committee for the UK National Stem Cell Network from 2009-11.
Professor Eleanor Riley
Director of The Roslin Institute & Dean for Research and Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Professor Eleanor Riley became the Director of The Roslin Institute and Dean of Research at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies of The University of Edinburgh in September 2017. Prior to taking up this role she was Professor of Immunology and Head of the Department of Immunology and Infection at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London.
With a background in veterinary medicine, human infectious diseases and global health, she has more than 30 years’ experience of research in the UK and Africa. Her research interests include immunity to malaria and related infections, genetic susceptibility to infection, the biology of natural killer cells and immunological evaluation of vaccines.
Researcher at John Innes Centre, Director of the Youth STEMM Award
Samantha is Director of the Youth STEMM Award and a researcher in the Enrico Coen lab at the John Innes Centre.
A major challenge in biology is to understand how buds comprising a few cells can give rise to complex plant and animal appendages, like leaves or limbs. She is addressing this problem through a combination of high resolution time-lapse imaging of growing leaf buds, clonal analysis and computational modelling. Samantha works closely with computer scientists and together they have generated a model that shows how leaf shape can arise according to a few simple rules. She is currently expanding the model of leaf growth to incorporate patterns of cell division and using it to investigate mechanisms that underlie the control of cell division arrest.
In addition to her research she is the JIC Youth Aspiration Champion and is passionate about broadening young people’s horizons about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and in particular increasing the diversity of those who go on to study those subjects post 16.
Samantha leads the JIC Women of the Future conference, the Year 10 Science Camp and is the co-founder of the Youth STEMM Award.
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, DBE
President and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Manchester
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, FRS, President and Vice-Chancellor, leads by example. Her own research in the field of neuroscience, which is ongoing, has contributed towards major advances in the understanding and treatment of brain damage in stroke and head injury.
She joined The University of Manchester in 1987, became Professor of Physiology in 1994 and held an MRC Research Chair from 1998 to 2010. Concurrent with her Faculty posts she has also held University roles as Vice-President for Research (2004-2007) and as Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (2007-2010).
She was elected Fellow of The Royal Society in June 2004 and made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 2005 in recognition of her services to science.
Professor Rothwell became President and Vice-Chancellor in July 2010 - the first woman to lead The University of Manchester or either of its two predecessor institutions. She was the founding President of The Royal Society of Biology and has also served as a non-executive director of AstraZeneca. She is currently Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, Chair of Corridor Manchester Board, a member of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership Board and a member of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Board. Professor Rothwell takes a strong and active interest in the public communication of science.
Professor Dame Athene Donald, DBE
Master of Churchill College, Cambridge
Professor Donald has been at the Cavendish since 1983, and became a professor in 1998. Her activity sits within the sector of Biological and Soft Systems, and focusses on using the ideas of soft matter physics to study a wide range of systems of both synthetic and biological origin. There is an emphasis on using different types of microscopy, but these have not been the only approaches used. Other techniques used include passive microrheological techniques for the study of a range of complex fluids, including the inside of cells; we have been exploring cell adhesion, mitosis and spreading using optical approaches (including the effect of external physical cues such as topographical patterns); and explored protein aggregation at intermediate lengthscales, predominantly using model protein systems including beta lactoglobulin and insulin but extending to A beta.
The unifying theme throughout Athene’s career has been understanding structure-function-processing relationships.
Since October 2014 she has been Master of Churchill College. From 2010-14 she was the University of Cambridge's Gender Equality Champion. Athene had been a member of Royal Society Council and served on numerous of their committees. She was the founding chair of the Institute of Physics Biological Physics Group (2006-10) and was Project Director of the IOP's Teaching Biological Physics project. She was a Trustee of the Science Museum Group and remains a member of the Science Museum Advisory Board; since 2013 she has been a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council; and chairs the Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel for REF2021. Athene occasionally writes for the Guardian Science Blogs at Occam's Typewriter.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, DBE
Director of Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Ottoline received her BA in 1986 and her PhD in 1990 in Genetics from the University of Cambridge. After post-doctoral research at Indiana University and Cambridge, she took up a lectureship at the University of York, where she worked from 1994-2010.
Among her honours are the Society for Experimental Biology’s President’s Medal (2000), The Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award (2007), the International Plant Growth Substance Association’s Silver Medal (2010), the UK Genetics Society Medal (2016) and the FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award (2017).
She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours list. She is a Fellow of The Royal Society, a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Leopoldina. She is Chair of the British Society for Developmental Biology, and of The Royal Society’s Science Policy Advisory Group. She currently serves on the Council for Science and Technology. She is Co-Editor in Chief of Current Opinions in Plant Biology and a Fellow of Clare College.