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Carolyn has a degree in chemistry. After a spell in industry she returned to Oxford to do a DPhil. When she had small children she had a job abstracting patents. She then won a fellowship from the Daphne Jackson Trust. She is now investigating stem cell therapy for heart failure.

Portrait of Carolyn CarrBackground

at the time of the interview - November 2014

Carolyn is a research scientist and principal investigator in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. She is married and has two children. Ethnic background/Nationality: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - November 2014

Carolyn has always been interested in science. Her mother taught German and her father taught English, and her grandfather was a physics teacher. Carolyn went to a girls’ school, where the head mistress was a mathematician, and she always felt that it was normal for girls to do science. Carolyn got a place at Oxford to study chemistry. She loved the research elements of the degree. She didn’t get a first class degree, which in those days was necessary to do a DPhil, so she got a job at Kodak as an analytic chemist.

Eventually Carolyn was offered the opportunity to do a DPhil at Oxford, in chemistry, looking at the structure of molecules. Near the end of her DPhil she became pregnant with her first child, but completed her work and passed the viva.

 I love doing science ... it’s very interactive ... working with people, collaborating with people, the sort of things women are really good at ... I just find it a fascinating life

While she had two small children Carolyn worked part time abstracting patents. When her children started school she started looking for a new job in science, but found it hard to find what she wanted. She lacked confidence and felt she was out of touch with the latest techniques. Then she saw an advertisement by the Daphne Jackson Trust, which is an organisation dedicated to realising the potential of scientists and engineers returning to research following a career break. Carolyn won a fellowship and went back to Oxford to work on a project part time, a study looking at drugs used for cancer. She also worked part time for a company called Synaptica on a project about Alzheimer’s. Eventually the company ran out of money for this project, so Carolyn applied for another job at Oxford, which involved more biochemistry, and got it.

She joined the department in 2003 and is now investigating stem cell therapy for heart failure. She uses high resolution magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to measure heart function and look at the effect of cell therapy on the heart.

Carolyn recognises that having a career break to have children and having worked for a while in industry has made it harder for her to progress in her career than it might have been had she stayed working in Oxford all the time. She loves science and recommends that people enter the field. Having flexible hours in academia makes a career much easier for people with children than it might be in Industry where hours are less flexible.