Women in Science
Charlotte did a chemistry degree at Oxford followed by a PhD in Bioinformatics at the University of Cambridge. After 2 years of a Wellcome Fellowship at UCLA, she came to Oxford where she is now Head of Department, Statistics.
at the time of the interview - 2017
Charlotte is Professor of Structural Bioinformatics and Head of Department, Statistics and her work specialises in protein research.
at the time of the interview - 2016
Charlotte described always liking maths and science at school but chose to do a chemistry degree because she found this harder. She found her undergraduate degree course at Oxford a bit frustrating because a lot of it was about learning what was already known rather than answering new questions. In the fourth year, she did a project about the structure and function of proteins which she found very interesting and went on to Cambridge to do a PhD in the area of Bioinformatics. She then gained a three year Wellcome Trust fellowship, two years of which were spent working in California, before she was encouraged to apply for a lectureship post in bioinformatics in Oxford.
And the really nice thing about working in science is the idea that when you start working on a problem, you don’t know where it’s going to go, because no one knows the answer. And then you see something interesting, and it might even be miles outside what you truly understand at that point in time, but if you find it interesting, you can keep looking.
Charlotte began by running a Masters course and setting up Doctoral Training Centres for DPhil students, and in the past year has become Head of Department. Charlotte has found this post difficult, which she anticipated, but also likes the fact she better understands the organisation of the university and what can be changed to improve the working environment for everyone.
While Charlotte has worked in a male dominated area, she has always “felt very comfortable in her own skin”. She thinks that the Athena Swan initiative has made her more aware of particular issues that women may face in the workplace but she has mixed feelings about it. The changes made are things that will benefit everyone in the workplace, rather than just women, and she feels that the workload for Athena Swan can fall disproportionately on women.
Charlotte says she works long hours but this is her choice because she finds the work exciting and she really enjoys it. Part of the excitement is that when you start working on a problem, you never know where it is going to go and “it might be miles outside of what you truly understand at that point in time… and there is nothing else like that”. Ethnic background: White British.