This Women and Girls in Science Day there was one person whose name rang out as the perfect fit for an interview. Dr Rachel Eyre is a breast cancer research scientist in the Oglesby Building. She researches breast cancer metastasis, particularly focussing on the role of cancer stem cells and IL1β in driving this process. She is also a mum of three, including twins.
What does being a woman in science mean to you?
To me, being a scientist means doing everything I can to find out more about cancer so we can improve treatments for patients, and being a woman in science means breaking the glass ceiling so I can get there. Science is still largely a boys club, and I think a lot of being a woman in science in 2019 is about making it known that we’re here, we’re contributing some really great things, and we’re just as capable as our male peers. It isn’t easy, but I’m up for the challenge!
Were their any women who inspired you to get into science?
I decided to do Biomedical Sciences at university because I enjoyed science but knew I didn’t want to be a doctor. I was actually discouraged from this course by a brilliant female science teacher (and also my mum!), who thought I should do medicine anyway. But in the wonderful way of teenagers I ignored them! Then when I was at university two of my mum’s best friends, Alison and Karen, died from metastatic breast cancer, and from then on I knew the only thing I wanted to do was to improve treatment options for these women. So Alison and Karen were my inspiration to embark on a career in science, and they, plus many other women like them, remain my inspiration to stay.
What do you think could be improved in the field to welcome more women and girls and second to help them stay in the field?
I don’t personally think there’s a problem encouraging girls into science, whenever I speak to teenager girls about science they seem engaged with the subject and confident about pursuing it (which is brilliant!). I think the issue is in persuading women to stay. Longer contracts (or permanent jobs) would make a huge difference to keeping women in science, particularly those with children. Better recognition that women have different skills to men and contribute in different ways would also help; we aren’t the same as men, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t an asset to a research team.
Any advice to those starting out?
Stick with it! Science is a fantastically rewarding career. I get to come to work every day doing something that I love and I think is valuable for society, and I’ll never take that for granted. Yes, it’s tough, but the more of us that hang in there and support each other, the more chance we all have of success.