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Supporting women’s careers in science - SUSTAIN

The first 20 participants in the Academy of Medical Sciences SUSTAIN programme have been announced today.

Not enough women researchers are progressing to senior roles in science. Through SUSTAIN, the Academy is focussing efforts to reverse this trend and ensure women in research are supported along their career to enable them to secure senior and leadership positions.

Professor Susan Wray FMedSci, member of the SUSTAIN reference group and Professor of Physiology, University of Liverpool said:

“With SUSTAIN we want to help more women in research to reach senior positions in their fields. Women often face a different set of challenges to their male colleagues in their career, or they approach them differently. SUSTAIN has been designed to be relevant and applicable to women’s needs.

“It will provide training, mentoring and peer networks to help facilitate the advancement of women working in research.”

The 20 SUSTAIN participants include clinical, basic medical and biomedical researchers and researchers from the physical and natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology as well as engineering researchers.

The women will participate in a year long programme of workshops and training on topics including defining a research niche, publishing strategically, finding a work-life balance and developing a personal and leadership style. They will also benefit from a programme of mentoring from research leaders and the chance to build a network of peers to support them through the challenges of combining research, teaching, clinical practice and caring responsibilities.

SUSTAIN participant Dr Soma Meran, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine & University Hospital of Wales, said:

“Young women contemplating careers in academia often feel that they have to choose between success in their careers and a family life. I have chosen both of these paths and feel that with the necessary support structures in place many others can achieve this.

“However, fairly few people are able to understand the complexities and challenges of juggling a clinical and research career alongside being a mother. At times it has been difficult to find the necessary advice, mentorship and empowerment needed.

“SUSTAIN offers a structured and tailored programme of training and mentorship which will enable me, and others like me, to further develop strategies to continue to progress in this field.”

Dr Li Chan, SUSTAIN participant and MRC and Academy of Medical Sciences Tenure-track clinician scientist at Queen Mary University of London said:

"I think every academic would benefit from a program such as SUSTAIN especially during their intermediate years. For me I feel that this is a critical time to gain mentorship and support from peer groups who are going through some of the same issues.”

SUSTAIN participant Dr Elin McCormack, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Space Science & Technology Dept, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory said:

“I think it’s important to understand how other women have navigated their careers to succeed in producing high quality science in parallel with raising a family. The SUSTAIN programme includes both training and peer-support to learn from their examples.

“I am also especially looking forward to learning the skills needed to present science to the media and to practise these skills in a studio environment.”

The Academy has also published a report highlighting the key issues for career progression identified by the SUSTAIN pilot’s applicants that have been used to guide the design of the programme and the activities available.

Among these, the top three were

·         Work-life balance

·         Leadership and management skills

·         Media skills

SUSTAIN is run by the Academy of Medical Sciences. It is funded by the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society the Royal College of Physicians and the Academy of Medical Sciences. The initial SUSTAIN pilot programme will last for one year.

Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said that “low numbers” of women were reaching leadership positions in the medical sciences. “I am personally very keen to see this change, as more balanced organisations are more likely to make truly innovative discoveries,” she said. “At present only 15% of clinical academics at professional level are women. As the majority of entrants into the medical profession are women, this issue needs to be urgently addressed.”

Dacre said that it was vital to ensure that women were at the forefront of clinical research and that continuous improvement in the NHS and the Sustain scheme was a “powerful addition to making this aim happen.”

The 20 awardees are:

Dr Li Chan, MRC and Academy of Medical Sciences Tenure-track clinician scientist, Centre for Endocrinology, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Atlanta Cook, MRC Career Development Fellow, Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh

Dr Alessia David, MRC Clinical Research Fellow, Centre for Bioinformatics, Imperial College London

Dr Janet Deane, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, University of Cambridge

Dr Sarah Flanagan, Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Medical School, University of Exeter

Dr Hayley Jones, Research Fellow in Medical Statistics, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol

Dr Sandra McAllister, Academic Clinical Lecturer, Centre for Experimental Medicine, Queen's University Belfast

Dr Rebecca Morris, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Dr Elin McCormack, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow, Space Science & Technology Dept, RAL Space

Dr Soma Meran, MRC Clinician Scentist Fellow, Institute of Nephrology, Cardiff University

Dr Linda O'Keeffe, Research Associate, Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol

Dr Kathleen O'Reilly, Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London

Dr Nayia Petousi, Clinical Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

Dr Sheena Ramsay, MRC Fellow, Department of Primary Care & Population Health, University College London

Dr Esther Sammler, SCREDS Clinical Lecturer, MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, University of Dundee

Dr Alexandra Santos, MRC Clinical Research Fellow, Department of Paediatric Allergy, King's College London

Dr Zania Stamataki, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, Medical School, University of Birmingham

Dr Nathalie Vriend, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge

Dr Aoife Waters, MRC Clinical Scientist, Institute of Child Health, University College London

Dr Emma Yu, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Cardiology, Addenbrooke’s Centre for Clinical Investigation, University of Cambridge




For further information, please contact:

Giorgio De Faveri at the Academy of Medical Sciences

T: 0203 1762 180 M: 07885903528 E:


Notes for Editors

1.    SUSTAIN will support 20 women for a period of one year. As this is a pilot programme, only award holders from partner organisations were eligible in this first instance.

To be eligible to apply applicants must have been holder of one of the following awards or fellowships:

Medical Research Council

Career Development Award

Skills Development Fellowships (previously Strategic Skills Fellowships) 

Clinician Scientist Fellows

Royal Society

Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

University Research Fellowship

Sir Henry Dale Fellowships

Academy of Medical Sciences

Starter Grant Award

Clinician Scientist Fellowship

2.    The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the UK representing the diversity of medical science. Our mission is to promote medical science and its translation into benefits for society. The Academy’s elected Fellows are the United Kingdom’s leading medical scientists from hospitals, academia, industry and the public service. We work with them to promote excellence, influence policy to improve health and wealth, nurture the next generation of medical researchers, link academia, industry and the NHS, seize international opportunities and encourage dialogue about the medical sciences.

3.    The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society’s strategic priorities are:

•  Promoting science and its benefits

•  Recognising excellence in science

•  Supporting outstanding science

•  Providing scientific advice for policy

•  Fostering international and global cooperation

•  Education and public engagement

For further information please visit Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at or on Facebook at

4.    Medical Research Council. The heart of our mission is to improve human health through world-class medical research. To achieve this, we support research across the biomedical spectrum, from fundamental lab-based science to clinical trials, and in all major disease areas. We work closely with the NHS and the UK Health Departments to deliver our mission, and give a high priority to research that is likely to make a real difference to clinical practice and the health of the population.

5.    The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) aims to improve patient care and reduce illness, in the UK and across the globe. We are patient centred and clinically led. Our 30,000 members worldwide, including 1100 in Wales, work in hospitals and the community across 30 different medical specialties, diagnosing and treating millions of patients with a huge range of medical conditions.

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