Interview with Dr Katrina Lythgoe


Dr Katrina Lythgoe

Dr Katrina Lythgoe has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship and she is a member of the Evolutionary Epidemiology Group within the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology. Her research interests lie in applying ecological and evolutionary theory to better predict the evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease in humans and other species, with the ultimate aim of informing public health decisions.

Her current research is focused on the within- and between-host evolution of HIV and in particular on the consequences of population structure on the evolutionary dynamics of the virus. she is a member of the Evolutionary Epidemiology Group, led by Professor Christophe Fraser, within the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London.

Dr Lythgoe shared her thoughts with me this week and she told me about the challenges she faced and her opinions about current issues on women in science.

Dr Lythgoe comes from a family of scientists, “My father was a scientist, my grandparents and great grandfather were scientist. So I always brought up around science. I just really love finding out about things, finding out about new things.”

She is very exciting when discovering new things.”I am pushed to work hard, because it means I can learn more and find out more, which was really rewarding.”

She was the Editor of science journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution (TREE) for seven years, but now she returned to research with the help of a Wellcome Trust Re-Entry Fellowship.  “I left science by myself and became an editor for seven years. I really missed science a lot. So I applied for an re entry fellowship,  It is very hard to work full time while pregnant, but I manage to do it.” I asked her about whether she is considering a different job in the future, she said no, “it was really big effort to get back into science. I did that because I knew that was the right career for me. it hasn’t across my mind once. now I’ve been out and come back I know this is right thing for me.”

However, some women leave The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) jobs just few years after they started, I asked Dr Lythgoe’s opinion about it, she said, “I think women tends to be more insecure about their ability than men, which may encouraged them to leave academia, And I think there’s perception around science that you can’t work part time and you can’t do it with a family. You have to have very traditional career path. I think it’s absolutely wrong. What needed is talented people not a traditional career path.”

During the conversation, I asked her about the stresses women faced in STEM field. She mentioned two things, the first thing is women were better in collaborative roles where science is quite competitive.  “I’m not sure it necessarily suit women very well.” ; the second thing is “combining science with family life is very difficult.”. She explains science is about how many hours you can put in, when women got the family to look after, it’s very difficult to throw all their time and energy into work.

Dr Lythgoe is a successful women in the STEM field,  in the meantime, she is also a wife and a mother. She told me that it is difficult to combining work with family life. but she said she had less worry and stresses than others, “I don’t do experiment, so I can work from home a lot, which help me to cut down the time I need to spend on traveling. And I have a considerate husband so I can work on the weekends, he looks after the children.”

I asked her for the recipe of how women can have a successful career in STEM field, she pointed out that the most important things is ‘you need to love you topic, you have to have real passion for the topic you studying’.

Dr Lythgoe pointed out that it is important to have a role model to help motive women in STEM, “We can see more and more women at top levels in the science have a normal family life, I think that they are most inspiring role models because they approved everyone that is possible.”

At end of the conversation, Dr Lythgoe give her advice to young women who want pursuing a career in  STEM, “Do it. because it is a fantastic career and it is flexible career if it is something you love and passion about it . then you can make a successful of it. The important thing is you choose the right topic, you really have a passion for it. And then make sure you get the right training ”

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