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Dr Jenny cusiter

UKRMP Engineered Cell Environment Project Manager, University of Edinburgh

 

And - MBA, Open University

Find a good female mentor and be part of a network - it is all about who you know.

What do you do?

I project manage a £5m multi-disciplinary collaborative project funded by the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform. UKRMP is addressing the key translational challenges of regenerative medicine. 

I manage the UKRMP Engineered Cell Environment Hub which is led by Prof Stuart Forbes at the University of Edinburgh and we have partners from the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge as well as KCL and UCL. Our remit is to investigate the environment or “niche” within the body that surrounds stem cells as this has a profound effect upon cell behaviour including their ability to repair damaged organs. By understanding how the niche influences stem cell behaviour in tissues we use this knowledge to develop future therapies for serious untreatable diseases. Our objectives are to develop cell therapies for damaged organs and promote endogenous repair of damaged organs.

My role involves reporting to the funding bodies and Programme Board on our research progress as well as facilitating commercialisation of research outputs and helping with the personal/career development of our early stage researchers. I also help coordinate conferences and workshops aligned to UKRMP interests. I am also continuously sourcing follow on funding to ensure that project outputs continue to be developed.

Why did you choose this field?

I always loved STEM subjects at school. I chose to go to the University of Strathclyde for my undergraduate as they offered a 5 year Masters degree including a 12 month industrial placement. As well my core science subjects, I studied “French for Scientists & Engineers” and got the chance to do an exchange year at the University of Montreal. All my classes and exams were in French: it was hard work but a great experience and it opened my eyes to a potential career path. I did my industrial placement working for Servier (French pharmaceutical company) in Paris. It was an amazing year working with a synthetic chemistry team on an Alzheimer’s project.

I did my PhD working at the University of Glasgow as part of the WESTCHEM programme. During my PhD, I experienced the highs and lows of academic research and I decided academia was not for me.

 

I ended up working for a small scientific consultancy writing market research reports for the life sciences and healthcare sectors. This was my first exposure to the world of innovation and commercialisation, and I realised that I had found a job that I loved. Unfortunately I was made redundant during the 2008 financial crisis: however I was lucky enough to get a job working in a commercialisation team at the University of Edinburgh and have worked in a number of different roles at the University for the last 10 years.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I recently graduated from the Open University with an MBA. It took me 5 years but seeing as I also had my 2 children (Murray, 5 and Eilidh, 3) at the same time I think I did pretty well! I would have never thought that I could have done this if you had suggested it me when I was younger but I was motivated and inspired by successful female managers, mentors and colleagues who told me that everything is possible.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working with people who are passionate about their research and I look forward to helping them source funding to follow their research ideas and pursue translation of their research outputs into treatments for patients. Everyday is different.

Best advice for the next generation

Do something that you enjoy and that makes your life fun - think about a multidisciplinary degree as this has the chance for you to make an impact on society. I’m a massive geek who also loves shoes, bags and getting my nails done and there is nothing wrong with that. Anyone who tells you otherwise is jealous! Find a good female mentor and be part of a network - it is all about who you know!

Fun fact

I really enjoy cooking to relax (no-one leave my house hungry!) which is a science in itself!