On the evening of Tuesday 13th March, we were privileged to welcome Professor Dame Carol Black as our Keynote Speaker for British Science Week. She is currently the Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge and has been President of the Royal College of Physicians and of the British Lung Foundation, amongst a whole host of other positions throughout her hugely varied career.

The lecture was centred around her journey to where she is now, starting with her school days. What was most striking about her education was her determined yet patient attitude, for example overcoming hurdles to fund her second degree. She then highlighted her flexibility to manoeuvre her career into what she wanted it to be, rather than sticking to the slightly more conventional, sometimes simpler path.

Dame Carol explained a bit about her work with scleroderma, a chronic disease that hardens skin and connective tissue, which was fatal when she was a junior doctor. She is an internationally renowned expert on the disease and established a centre at the Royal Free Hospital for research and treatment of it.

She then focused more on government work through completing three independent reviews on the health of the UK workforce, sickness absence and addiction. This transition from predominantly clinical practice as a rheumatologist is a further example of her willingness to adjust her career to match her interests. She also discussed leadership skills and reminded us that it takes practice and you don’t have to be the stereotypical extrovert to lead successfully.

At supper before the lecture she discussed a fascinating programme she runs at Newnham, a women’s college, where the students choose the topics, which vary from computer coding to mindfulness. As an advocate for women’s education, she explained how we need to be better risk-takers and gave the example of thinking laterally in an exam, which boys tend to do more than girls.

Overall, it was a fascinating evening and we all learnt a lot about adaptability in choosing our career paths as well as the ground-breaking work Dame Carol has done in her chosen field.

Jess (UVI Form)