Life simply put my academic plans and future on hold. I’m happy I’m now an independent scientist once again.

Prior to her career break, neuroscientist Dr Natalia Gorenkova had what looked like a flourishing future career in international research.

She was working at the forefront of stroke therapy research in the field of stem cell research and nanomedicine, having obtained a PhD from Moscow State University, and with nearly ten years of research experience under her belt through positions held in Ireland, Germany and the UK. Natalia gained an impressive eight publications as first author and had published 13 papers overall in the time since receiving her PhD.

Natalia started her Daphne Jackson Fellowship after a three-year break taken to care for her daughter. She was employed as a post-doc at Manchester University when she found out she was pregnant. She was delighted but knew she would need to take maternity leave aswell as relocate to be near her family in Ireland.

Shortly after the birth, Natalia began to look for research posts but struggled to find anything suitable in Northern Ireland, where she was living at the time. In 2014, Natalia split from her partner and moved to London with her daughter, where she began life as a single parent.

Once her daughter was settled in a new nursery, Natalia started to look for employment, but despite her significant experience as a highly skilled researcher she was faced with knockback after knockback.

It was a frustrating time. I felt driven and ready to re-enter my former research career. I’d spent many years making significant contributions in the field of stroke research and making efforts towards next step of my career.

In 2014, a former supervisor of hers introduced her to a Senior Research Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, during a Stroke Symposium. Natalia asked if there were any opportunities for her within his laboratory in Scotland and together they started pursuing career re-entry opportunities together. They spotted the advert for the Daphne Jackson Trust’s Medical Research Scotland sponsored Fellowships.

 I thought the Fellowship sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to re-enter my research career and seemed like a good match for my personal circumstances.

She was delighted to be successful in the Trust’s application process and was awarded a two-year Fellowship, beginning in 2015 after she relocated to Scotland.

Natalia’s Fellowship is giving her the opportunity to refresh her skills in the laboratory and she is focusing on techniques such as cell culture, intracranial surgery and implantation, confocal microscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). She is also attending the Trust’s professional development and retraining courses and a number of other University courses aimed specifically at scientists.

I am enjoying working again – being around other scientists, managing the animal facility, negotiating with pharmaceutical companies and clinical partners. The part-time aspect of the Fellowship is hugely helpful in allowing me to balance my family’s needs and pursue an academic career.

Natalia’s research project will investigate if silk can be a biomaterial to create an optimum microenvironment for stem cells that will be used to treat stroke; with the aim of the ultimate benefit in reducing disability and dependency after stroke. Natalia has also been successful in securing an additional 12 months of follow on funding as a Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde.

I am now feeling confident again and committed to science, thanks to the Daphne Jackson Trust. I’m delighted that the Trust exists to provide opportunities and support career-break returners in science.

  • Two-year Fellowship, from 2015 – 2017
  • Hosted by the University of Strathclyde, within the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • Fully sponsored by Medical Research Scotland
  • Supervisors: Dr Hilary Carswell and Dr Philipp Seib
  • Research area: Silk biomaterials for the stroked brain