Kirsty Bannister

Lecturer, Principal Investigator, King’s College London


Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. You are capable.

What do you do?

My role is to uncover novel mechanisms of pain perception in health and disease. The experience of pain is a truly unique phenomenon, which changes on a daily and even hourly basis depending on the circumstances under which it’s felt. My job is to firstly understand how the pain pathways in our brain function in health such that when the same pathways are studied in a pain state, the mechanisms causing dysfunction can be identified. I carry out my research in animals and humans as I am a translational neuroscientist.

Why did you choose this field?

I was obsessed with biological science at school. I was always first in line to dissect the frog leg or heart at school. I wanted to know how the leg functioned - why does a frog leap. I wanted to know how the heart was innervated - why does it beat? All roads led to neuroscience and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to understand the mechanisms that make us the unique individuals that we are. Nothing is more unique than our experience of pain and the idea that the same stimulus could evoke a different pain sensation in different individuals fascinated me. My Neuropharmacology lecture as an UGT at UCL inspired me to investigate this process when I completed a research project in his laboratory. From there, like the nerve in my dissected frogs legs, I was hooked.

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

Obtaining a PhD in 2008 was something that I never truly believed I would be capable of. It was my dream as a sixth form science student. Realising the reality was truly a stand out moment. Thereafter I spent 10 years as a post doctoral researcher and I loved every moment. My younger 27 year old self would never have believed that one day I would run my own research group. I still can’t believe that I am able to carry out my research passions as a career. I’m incredibly lucky.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love the freedom of discover. I love inspiring my students and supporting them. I love learning from my students and my lab members. My post doctoral researchers and PhD students inspire me and teach me new things every day. I love being part of a team with a common goal, to understand the neurological basis of pain.

Best advice for next generation?

Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. You are capable and don’t ever let anyone cast doubt on your capabilities. Hard work is necessary but so too is a real passion for what you do. If you stop enjoying your research then take a step back and figure out what you want. Give yourself the freedom of time and never put pressure on yourself. You are capable of amazing things.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” Mae Jemison

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