"I studied my first degree at Birmingham, and then I moved to Nottingham to study a Masters degree in oncology. I really enjoyed the research component of the MSc and decided to carry it forward into a PhD. The area of my doctorate was biomedical sciences – specifically immunology and oncology. I was looking at antigens that could be important in developing cancer treatment vaccines. Much of your first degree was learning to pass tests, but at doctoral study level I liked that you are in control of your own destiny and your own learning. You can choose your path ,and you get out what you put in. I found it even more interesting because my research supervisor had a spin-out company – she was taking her research towards finding a cure for cancer.
"I had become a bit disillusioned with academia on noticing that career progression was more limited for women – female heads of department within science disciplines were rare, although postgraduates made up more than 50% of the intake. I decided I didn’t want to fight that battle, instead deciding to combine my science and business knowledge. Having had a variety of jobs involving sales and marketing during my academic career, I realised that I had other skill sets besides those I had learnt in academia, and I was interested in turning research that was interesting into research that made a difference to society.
"Following my PhD, I completed the prestigious Medici Fellowship full-time, and I worked with Health Care and Life Science Inventions developed from University of Nottingham research. It included training around bringing a new product to market with intellectual property (IP), such as patents, at the core. I learned a lot about inventing new products and bringing them to market. Following this I worked at NHS Innovations (the same type of job for the NHS), and then Fusion IP – a venture capitalist investor who invested in IP from the University of Sheffield in order to license technology and start spin-out companies. Again, turning interesting research into research that matters.
"Whilst my career involved working with inventors to bring new products to market, I had myself invented a new product in my spare time – a gravity defying bra! It took me about three years to raise investment, recruit staff and start selling the finished product (D+ Perk Ups). You have to get the product to a certain stage, and spend quite a bit on IP costs before it is ready to sell. We then invented another product that we sold a licence for, and we hope that will be sold as ‘the new Wonderbra ®’ in 2011/2012.
"I found that my doctoral study really taught me to think logically and carry out effective research and development – some very transferable skills. There were quite a few challenges along the way, but my experience in technology transfer for universities and the NHS was the perfect background I needed as it taught the basics of doing business in this way.
"Inventing and launching a new product requires a broad range of skills – financial, business, technical, IP, funding, research, development, people management, customer service, and many more. All my little jobs during college, my degrees and full-time work prepared me for the experience of running a company. My advice is to say that learning is never a waste of time – you never know when it might come in handy!"