Dr Sianne Schwikkard, Chemistry, University of Surrey
Sianne began her career as a research chemist and completed a PhD in 1998, followed by 3 post-doc positions and a short period of research in industry. When she started a family, Sianne decided to step back from research and took a part time teaching role at Kingston University. This gave her the flexibility she needed to bring up her two young children, but she longed to return to research.
Now, sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and hosted by the University of Surrey, Sianne is able to return to research with a Daphne Jackson Fellowship. She will be isolating chemical compounds called homoisoflavonoids from a group of plants called the Hyacinthaceae. Any new compounds with biological activity that Sianne isolates will be tested for anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity, as well as for their ability to treat degenerative eye diseases.
During the fellowship Sianne will update her skills in sensitive spectroscopy techniques and separation methods, positioning her to take on independent research at the end of the project.
Professor Dulcie Mulholland, head of the Chemistry Department and Sianne's principal supervisor says 'I am delighted that Sianne has joined us. She is a very talented person and this is a wonderful opportunity for her to get back into her scientific career.'
'The addition of an experienced researcher like Sianne to a group can only be extremely beneficial to all. As part of her training she will co-supervise a PhD student. She will be an excellent role model for my nearly all - women group.'
Dr Margaret O'Hara, Molecular Physics, University of Birmingham
Dr Chris Mayhew, Head of Molecular Physics at Birmingham University is currently supervising a Daphne Jackson Fellow, Dr Margaret O'Hara. Margaret began her Fellowship in November 2012, following a career break to look after her young daughter. She is exploring spectrometry methods for breath sample analysis.
Chris first became aware of the Daphne Jackson Trust 3 years ago when Margaret approached him about the possibility of joining his research team as a Daphne Jackson Fellow.
'I was delighted to be given an opportunity to support a talented scientist who is balancing having a family with a professional life. I was particularly excited to have Margaret in my research group given her expertise in breath analysis'. He says.
We asked Chris for his views on supervising a Daphne Jackson Fellow:
Q: How do you think hosting/supervising a Daphne Jackson Fellow adds value to your research group?
A: Margaret brings key and essential skills to an active research group. She brings a maturity that is missing when just PhD students are in my group. She provides a role model for all student members of my group, but particularly for the female students. She also provides a voice for equality within the department and encourages outreach activities. Margaret is a colleague who I can discuss science and organisation with on an equal basis.
Q: Do you think the Fellowship will help Margaret longer term in her scientific career. If so, how?
A: Without doubt. She is doing outstanding work and is already being recognised (e.g. she has already given a keynote talk at a breath analysis conference).
Q: What would you say to someone considering supervising a Daphne Jackson Fellow?
A: There are only benefits. The supervision is not onerous. Indeed one gains far more than one has to put in. I get an experienced staff member to work with. Being experienced she brings a new dimension to my group and shows PhD students the appropriate work ethics and guidance.
Supervising a Daphne Jackson Fellow at Edinburgh Napier University
Professor Callum Hill supervised a Daphne Jackson Fellow at Edinburgh Napier University, between 2008 and 2010 and believes a career break can be an advantage to researchers. The Fellow he supervised was dedicated and hard working.
“My supervisee really wanted the opportunity, she was very enthusiastic and conscientious,” he says. “The biggest issue was building confidence but that was just a question of giving her challenges and enabling her to see that she did have the capability.”
Flexibility and part time working was not an issue from Professor Hill’s point of view. The Fellow took work home, and 'crunched data' in the evening. “Daphne Jackson Fellows have previous experience and so are known quantities,” he says. “You are likely to get more out of a Fellow than a fresh post doc. I can’t see why anyone would be worried about taking on a returner.”