SUSTAIN is a programme that enables female researchers to thrive in their independent research careers. It provides an innovative programme of training and support to develop participants’ leadership and career potential.
Applications for the seventh round of SUSTAIN will open in summer 2022.
Not enough female researchers are securing senior leadership posts in the UK. A concerted effort is needed to ensure women are appropriately supported along their career trajectory to enable them to secure those senior positions.
Our SUSTAIN programme provides female researchers a fantastic opportunity to benefit from individualised support tailored to their career needs.
A few participants in the latest group shared what they are hoping to learn:
We are delighted to announce the 24 SUSTAIN participants starting their year-long programme on Monday 6 June 2022. As in previous rounds, applicants were chosen randomly and stratified by location and funder. All applicants are grant awardees funded by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society or the Royal Academy of Engineering. The programme will provide the participants with a range of innovative training and support opportunities to develop and refine their leadership and career potential.
SUSTAIN round 6 participants:
Dr Anette Allen, Research Fellow, University of Manchester
Dr Anna Barnard, Sir Henry Dale Research Fellow, Imperial College London
Dr Michelle Buckner, Assistant Professor of Antimicrobial Resistance, University of Birmingham
Dr Hayriye Cagnan, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Dr Jeongmin Choi, Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Cambridge
Dr Kirsten Christensen-Jeffries, MRC Research Fellow, King’s College London
Dr Hannah Durrington, MRC Clinician Scientist, University of Manchester Honorary Consultant Physician, Wythenshawe Hospital
Dr Taya Forde, Lecturer, University of Glasgow
Dr Toshana Foster, Assistant Professor in Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham
Dr Jennifer Greaves, Assistant Professor, Coventry University
Dr Betina Ip, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Rand Ismaeel, RAEng Fellow, University of Southampton
Dr Georgia Isom, MRC Career Development Award Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Katrina Lythgoe, Group Leader and Sir Henry Dale Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Verity McClelland, MRC Clinician Scientist Fellow, King’s College London
Dr Jo Morling, MRC Clinician Scientist, Clinical Associate Professor in Public Health, University of Nottingham
Dr Jill O’Reilly, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Dr Jacinta O’Shea, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Dr Ruth Payne, Clinical Lecturer, University of Sheffield
Dr Rathi Prasad, Consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Melanie Roffet-Salque, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow and Proleptic Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry, University of Bristol
Dr Danielle Whittaker, Post-doctoral researcher/Specialist in Veterinary Neurology, King’s College London
Dr Abby Wilson, RAEng research fellow, University College London
Dr Kali Wilson, Royal Society University Research Fellow/University of Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow, University of Strathclyde
The year-long programme offers interactive skills training and career development sessions, tailored mentoring and the opportunity to network with research leaders. It is designed so that participants are part of a unique cohort to share learnings and includes:
Interactive career development workshops
The sixth round of SUSTAIN is planned to launch with a 2 day, 1 night in-person residential in June. This decision will be reviewed closer to the time and will take into account any challenges posed by the COVID-19 situation. Subsequent workshops are likely to be a mixture of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.
The residential and subsequent workshops will be tailored to support attendees through the challenges of combining research, teaching, clinical practice and caring and other responsibilities where relevant. Previous sessions have included topics on:
Time management • Negotiation • Setting up a research team for success • Developing your leadership style
A peer support network
The cohort is small by design and are matched in co-coaching trios to enable ongoing peer support and safe discussion of issues/challenges. Small group work at each workshop helps to embed and put into practice key learning points.
Participants are mentored by a Fellow of the Academy. Bespoke training on how to get the most out of mentoring, and ongoing support is provided to both mentees and mentors over the course of the programme.
SUSTAIN supports 24 women for a period of one year. Only award holders from the following partner organisations are eligible.
Medical Research Council
Career Development Award
Clinician Scientist Fellowship
New Investigator Research Grant (NIRGs)
Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
Sir Henry Dale Fellowship
University Research Fellowship
Academy of Medical Sciences
Academy of Medical Sciences/The Health Foundation Clinician Scientist Fellowship
Starter Grant Award for Clinical Lecturers
Royal Academy of Engineering
Engineering for Development Research Fellows
In February 2022, we published the findings of an independent evaluation of the SUSTAIN programme, which looked at the lasting impact the programme has had since it first started in 2015. SUSTAIN was found to be strikingly successful, with over 90% of evaluation participants saying the programme was helping them thrive as independent researchers. You can find visual highlights of this report here:
We also work to support individuals and organisations who are developing their own programmes similar to SUSTAIN. If you are looking to develop your own programme, you can explore our new toolkit here.
“SUSTAIN is the first programme that is tailored specifically towards women at the beginning stages of their independent careers. By integrating a range of approaches, SUSTAIN enables new PIs to develop their own, personal leadership styles needed for their successful progression as scientists.”
Professor Eva Hoffman, SUSTAIN reference group
“Trying to build a career, deliver high quality science and raise a family can seem daunting. But you are not alone and many of the challenges faced by women in research are shared. SUSTAIN offers a structured programme of training and mentorship coupled with the opportunity to learn from and share with people who have walked (or are walking) in your shoes.”
Professor Elizabeth Sapey, SUSTAIN reference group
A number of reports over the past decade have highlighted the relative paucity of women researchers in science securing senior leadership posts in the UK due to barriers and hidden biases. Although the number is slowly rising, the Academy believes that a more concerted effort is needed to ensure women are appropriately supported along their career trajectory to enable them to secure those senior positions.
 Medical Schools Council, 2013. A Survey of Staffing Levels of Medical Clinical Academics in UK Medical Schools as at 31 July 2012. http://bit.ly/1B7SPEM
 UKRC, 2009. Female Attrition, Retention and Barriers to Careers in SET Academic Research. Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2012. Tapping all our talents. NAS, 2010. Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty.