Rachel Smith, Beth Warren and Sarah Griffin.
(L - R): Rachel Smith, Beth Warren and Sarah Griffin.

York Biotech Campus celebrates Women in STEM this International Women’s Day

The ‘leading hub’ for bioscience in Yorkshire, York Biotech Campus (YBC), is celebrating women in STEM in the run-up to International Women’s Day (8 March).

With the theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ for this year’s IWD, YBC is promoting some of the incredible, and successful women, that work onsite at the science park to inspire other women to explore opportunities in science.

YBC spoke to some of the women based at the campus to learn about their experiences, challenges, accolades, and contributions to the sector as well as their advice to others interested in paving a career in STEM. Read on to find out more…

Rachel Smith, Labcorp

Rachel Smith’s passion for science has led her to the role of Research and Development Scientist at Labcorp’s YBC site. The main aspect of Rachel’s role is developing methods for analysing protein-based pharmaceutical products during the drug development process. 

She mainly works using a technique called mass spectrometry, which allows scientists to get detailed information about the molecular structure of the products. Whilst undertaking her PhD in analytical chemistry she developed mass spectrometry methods for analysing archaeological samples.  

What do you enjoy most about working in science? 

“The thing I love most about my work is mass spectrometry! Most people who work with the technique are unashamedly geeky about it, and I’m no exception. I love understanding how it works and how much information it gives us on the products we test. 

“That said, on a wider scale I am proud to be working in the pharmaceutical industry, working on new drugs that have the power to transform people’s lives, treating conditions like cancer and autoimmune diseases.”

Advice to others?

“The main thing is to have an interest in science, and to take opportunities to develop that interest. I still like reading about science in its wider context, and regularly read New Scientist magazine. 

“You can enter the scientific industries at many levels, for example straight from school, after university, or after a PhD like I did. There is nothing stopping anyone from getting a job in science if they have the enthusiasm for it, and the area is so broad there is something for everyone!”

Sarah Griffin, Fera Science Ltd.

Sarah Griffin is a PhD Researcher in the Detection and Surveillance Technologies (DST) team in Fera’s Plant Protection Business Unit. Sarah’s tenacity has aided her professional development leading her to join Fera for her PhD in 2022, with her research focusing on developing genomic tools to enable monitoring of eukaryotic pests in the UK.

What’s your biggest career highlight?

“So far during my PhD, I've won first place presentation at the Fera Science Symposium, second place presentation at the Northern Bioinformatics User Group (NorthernBUG) Conference, and second place poster at the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (SNES) Summer Conference.

“I feel really proud of these achievements as I really wanted to get more confident in presenting my research during my PhD and winning these awards was an added bonus.”

What’s your advice to others?

“My best saying is 'it's not a rejection, it's a redirection'. I found that I got rejected during my career on numerous occasions for different job applications and opportunities. 

“I tried to not let rejections get me down and became even more determined as a result to prove everyone wrong. I would also recommend grasping every opportunity with both hands and using them to develop yourself. Even if the opportunity seems small it could give you some vital experience to help you with applications or lead to something bigger.”

Bethan Warren, Cargill Bioindustrial

As a Lead Application Scientist at Cargill Bioindustrial, Bethan researches, coordinates, and prioritises work across the team developing lubricants for automotive and industrial applications. 

Bethan has always been enthusiastic about science and it’s this passion which has led her to becoming an integral part of the Cargill Bioindustrial team, with a variety of responsibilities which includes maintaining health and safety standards within the lab. 

What attracted you to a career in science?

“I’ve always loved puzzles and understanding how things work. During my A-levels I considered studying engineering, but I had a supportive chemistry teacher who encouraged me to study chemistry at university and I’m so glad I did. 

“I studied Chemistry for a year in industry at University of York, gaining my Masters, followed by a PhD at Leeds (in the Mechanical Engineering department) researching how additives in gearboxes interact with copper surfaces.”

What’s your biggest career highlight?

“Last year we relocated our lab and office to YBC. I helped to design the new lab, ensuring we had the right gas lines, extraction, and number of plugs! It was such a unique experience and one I imagine only happens once in a career.”

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