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Academy supports 24 women researchers through prestigious career programme

The Academy of Medical Sciences has launched its latest SUSTAIN career development programme, which brings together women in research to support each other and ensure they can thrive in their independent research careers. 

SUSTAIN helps individuals reach their full professional and leadership potential through sessions on career development, media training and networking. Participants are each mentored by a Fellow of the Academy. The year-long programme provides participants with individualised support tailored to their specific career needs. 

Twenty-four women researchers have been selected for the new round, spanning a diverse field of specialisms, career stages and personal situations – including supporting young families, embarking on first fellowships and working towards professorships. Several are working as clinician-scientists whilst in medical training. 

The programme was established in 2015, with the latest run representing its ninth round. The new cohort includes: 

  • Dr Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer (Cardiology) at Queen Mary University of London and Academy of Medical Sciences’ Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers awardee, whose research is on integrating large scale imaging data into population research. 
  • Dr Claudia Lindner, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow, who uses methods from computer vision, machine learning and data science to develop automatic systems for analysing structures in medical images. 
  • Dr Yijing Xie, Research Fellow at King's College London and Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, whose research focuses on developing a 3D functional brain imaging for surgical guidance. 

Dr Lorraine Cowley is Principal Genetic Counsellor at Newcastle University and a Medical Research Council Clinical Academic Partnership Grant holder, researching how genetic testing for cancer gene variants can shape family dynamics and create moral agendas in families.  

Dr Cowley started her career as an oncology nurse and said: “I’m really pleased to be the first nurse to take part in the Academy of Medical Sciences’ SUSTAIN programme. I’ve been striving for a clinical academic route throughout my career, and I now have a fantastic opportunity to influence patient care in genetics through a clinical academic research partnership project that I’m incredibly passionate about. SUSTAIN has come at the perfect time to support me.” 

Dr Lauren Byrne is Senior Research Fellow at University College London and has received a Medical Research Council Career Development fellowship award to form a team and research niche in Juvenile-onset Huntington’s disease. 

Dr Byrne said: “I was the first in my family to go to university and understand the barriers that researchers from non-traditional backgrounds can face in sustaining an academic career. Programmes like SUSTAIN are vital to providing the training, mentoring and connections to support talented researchers across all backgrounds in continuing to advance innovative research and create positive change. I’m excited to join this cohort of exceptional scientists and gain valuable skills to take my work forward in a sustainable way." 

SUSTAIN responds to the Academy’s call for coordinated, evidence-based approaches to equity and inclusion from research leaders, as highlighted in its recentFuture Proofing UK Health Research report. By providing vital training, mentoring and networking opportunities, the programme aims to dismantle barriers female scientists frequently face to leadership, funding and career sustainability. 

Professor Paul Stewart FMedSci, Acting President of the Academy of Medical Sciences and SUSTAIN mentor, said: "We are thrilled to welcome our newest cohort into the SUSTAIN community, with the accomplished researchers spanning many diverse fields and specialisms. By bringing together this exceptional group of individuals, we hope to foster collaboration, inspiration and growth. 

"Despite making up the majority of UK postgraduate research students, women continue to face obstacles to advancement, leadership and funding compared to male peers. SUSTAIN directly provides women with the tailored skills training, mentoring and networking shown to counteract these roadblocks." 

The SUSTAIN programme is funded by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. 


  1. The full cohort of participants for the latest SUSTAIN programme: 
  • Lauren Byrne, Senior Research Fellow, University College London 
  • Julie McDonald, Lecturer, Imperial College London 
  • Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, Academic Clinical Lecturer (Cardiology), Queen Mary University of London 
  • Stella Paddick, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, MRC CARP Fellow/Honorary Lecturer Newcastle University, Newcastle University 
  • Lorraine Cowley, Principal Genetic Counsellor, Newcastle University 
  • Alison McNeilly, Principal Investigator, University of Dundee School of Medicine 
  • Celine Maistret, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow and proleptic lecturer, University of Bristol 
  • Alison Twelvetrees, Sir Henry Dale Fellow, University of Sheffield 
  • Kiterie Faller, MRC Clinician Scientist Fellow / Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Neurology, University of Edinburgh 
  • Charlotte-Eve Short, Academic Clinical Lecturer Sexual Health/HIV, Imperial College London 
  • Marina Antoniou, RS Dorothy Hodgkins Research Fellow, Associate Professor – Reader, University of Warwick 
  • Farzana Meru, Associate Professor (Reader) and Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, University of Warwick 
  • Clarissa Melo Czekster, Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale fellow and Lecturer, University of St Andrews 
  • Yaara Lefler, Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow, University College London 
  • Claudia Lindner, Senior Research Fellow, Sir Henry Dale Fellow, University of Manchester 
  • Gabriella Pizzuto, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow and Lecturer in Robotics and Chemistry Automation, University of Liverpool 
  • Sarah Hill, Research Fellow, Royal Veterinary College 
  • Patrycja Brook, Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Durham 
  • Valerie Soo, Advanced Research Fellow, Imperial College London 
  • Louisa Pollock, Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow 
  • Tara Sutherland, Lecturer, University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry 
  • Verena Zuber, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics, Imperial College London 
  • Elisabeth Rounis, Neurology Consultant, University of Cambridge 
  • Yijing Xie, Research Fellow, King's College London 


  1. Women outnumber men on UK PhDs for first time, Times Higher Education, 17 November 2022,  

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