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Sally did an MA in natural sciences at Cambridge, then a PhD in London, a postdoc at Harvard, and another in London. She took nine years away from a lab to have her children, during which she tutored part-time. Seven years ago she returned to work in Oxford, funded by a four year Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellowship.

Portrait of Sally CowleyBackground

at the time of the interview - December 2014

Sally is a University Research Lecturer and head of the James Martin Stem Cell Facility in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. She is married and has three children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - December 2014

Sally did an MA in natural sciences at Cambridge. She then moved to London to do a PhD. Her subject was myco-bacterial disease. She wanted to find out how nerves get damaged when someone has leprosy. She then did a postdoc at Harvard, where she studied HIV, and then another postdoc in London, at the Institute of Cancer Research.

that leap from being a postdoc to setting up your own lab ... always comes at the same point in time for women that they also want to have children. And I think this is one of the biggest barriers to women succeeding in science

Sally then decided to spend some time away from the laboratory bench whilst she had young children. At that time, in the early 1990’s, there was very limited maternity pay for women. Sally wanted to care for her three children herself, partly because her own parents had died when she was much younger. During this time Sally kept up to date with her subject, teaching Open University courses, and also tutored Oxford students.

Seven years ago, having been looking after her children for nine years, Sally returned to research at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. Her work, which uses pluripotent stem cells for disease modelling, was funded by a four year Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellowship. With William James, she has set up the James Martin Stem Cell Facility, for work with human pluripotent stem cells. She is now involved in many collaborative projects, and works hard to obtain funding for new projects to support her own work and the work of her research team. Sally thinks that researchers, who have not followed a traditional career path, including those who have had a career break to care for children, should be valued as much as those who have remained at the laboratory bench without a break.