Women in Science


The LMB is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. The LMB sponsors CamAWiSE, a networking organisation for women in these areas and co-organises an annual ‘What next in your career?’ event, to showcase women in a range of careers as inspiration and to provide a networking event for LMB staff and other local scientists.

We are keen to continue to recruit the best scientists, and encourage enquiries and applications from women. LMB scientists are drawn from all over the world, creating a lively international community for the exchange of ideas and technical innovation. Over 50 nationalities are represented, with more than half of the group leaders originating from outside the UK – a truly international community of PhD students, postdoctoral scientists and researchers. The LMB supports and encourages women scientists at all stages of their careers and a number of women have achieved notable success as LMB staff. For example, three have been elected to the Royal Society: Barbara Pearse for her work on clathrin, Daniela Rhodes for her work on chromatin, and Mariann Bienz for her work on wingless pathway. Mariann is also joint head of the PNAC Division.

LMB scientific alumni have gone on to work across the world, many leading their own groups and helping to build an international science community. After completing their PhD, 74% of LMB students move to postdoctoral positions in academia, and many start their own research groups within 5-10 years – our most recent survey shows 29% of female and 26% of male students have done so. Between 2005-2010, 85% of the postdocs trained at the LMB continued onto research careers, 41% of the females and 60% of the males became group leaders by 2015. Women who did PhDs or postdocs at the LMB that have gone on to succeed at the very highest level include Suzanne Cory, Joan Steitz and the Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn. Other distinguished alumnae include Julie Ahringer, Andrea Brand, Gillian Griffiths, Cynthia Kenyon, Maria Leptin, Laura Machesky, Margaret Robinson, Maria Spillantini, Sarah Teichmann and Melina Schuh.

Map showing where alumni are (Dec 2015)
Map showing where alumni are (Dec 2015)

Women@LMB Project

The LMB has commissioned science writer and LMB Alumna, Kathy Weston, to write a series of articles about the many women who have contributed, or are contributing, to the work and success of the LMB, and science in general.

Kathy is using the LMB Archive as a starting point for her research, but she is also gathering information from the women she is interested in writing about, including visiting and interviewing as many of these as possible.

Kathy is also interviewing all current LMB women group leaders and producing profiles about them. These are being released over the next few months and can be found on the Group Leaders Profile page.

Kathy did her PhD at the LMB in the PNAC Division from 1983 to 1987. She had a long career as a cancer biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research, before quitting the lab in 2009 to set up as a science writer and communicator. She has written for Cancer Research UK, EMBO and Wellcome, among others. Her publications include Blue Skies and Benchspace, a history of the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, and Engineering Nature’s Medicine: David Hopwood and the Streptomyces Revolution.

Employment Policies and Support for Families

Our employment policies aim to make it as easy as possible for both female and male scientists to combine family life with research. Indeed, most of the current female group leaders have families. The MRC supports parents by offering up to a year of maternity leave (of which six months is with full pay), as well as paid adoption, paternity and shared parental leave, regardless of length of service with the MRC. Both male and female tenure-track group leaders may ask for their tenure decision to be deferred to compensate for any maternity/shared parental leave taken.

There is childcare on the Addenbrooke’s hospital site (adjacent to the LMB), and there are several other nurseries in Cambridge which will take children from six months or younger. Wherever possible, the LMB has a flexible approach and supports employees that request changes to their working patterns due to childcare responsibilities. The new LMB building also gave us the opportunity to provide a private breastfeeding/expressing area for mothers who choose to return to work whilst still breastfeeding.