Dr Lorna Tinworth, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology at the University of Westminster, London

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Lorna Tinworth

My lifelong career love affair has only ever been with bioscience but what a huge, fascinating, awesome world that is. I am so grateful to be able to potter about in my corner of it and marvel at the rest.

I took my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at Queen Mary’s, London. My first year was a breeze, my second year was brutal. Fortunately, by my third year I’d figured out how to be a successful student!

After my B.Sc. I did a few ‘fill-in’ jobs. One of them was in an industrial chemistry company, where I gained a lot of hands-on, practical experience. I proved to myself that I loved benchwork. I learned respect for standard operating procedures, COSSH, risk assessment and appreciation of the incalculable value of colleagues who you can trust when things go wrong. I sent out many, many applications and finally landed my dream job as a research assistant for Prof Ian Craig at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre in King’s College. I loved every moment there, immersed in the fascinating world of twins studies, surrounded by people with amazing ideas, working long, challenging days and often facing frustration. It was there that I began to really appreciate the lives of research scientists. Their resilience and passion inspired me.

I quickly realized that I wanted to undertake research of my own, so I applied to do a PhD. I moved sideways into the Dental institute at King’s. I took all that I had learned into the salivary immunology labs of Prof Gordon Proctor. My PhD was a huge struggle (aren’t they all!?). I had chosen to move out of my comfort zone into an unfamiliar area and floundered initially, before finding my feet. The supervision that I received was excellent and I learned a lot from Professor Proctor about successful student-supervisor relationships that I still put into practice today.

After my PhD I worked for a few years at St. George’s with Prof Steve Jeffery and, as part of London IDEAS genetics knowledge park, I was invited to begin helping medical students to learn about genetics, and it went very well.

I undertook my Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education at George’s and, as the next natural step, began seeking a lectureship position. I was fortunate to be given a post at the University of Westminster, initially as maternity cover and then as a permanent member of staff. I now work there as a Senior Lecturer, having recently completed a Masters in Higher Education.

Am I happy in my work? What better way to spend time than talking about fascinating things with those who also want to learn about them? What a joy to be able to spend time in the lab helping students as they explore and being able to support them as they work hard to hone their skills.

I stand beside students as they strive, struggle and sacrifice. I witness them grow into individuals who can design then manage their own projects, and go on to confidently interpret, evaluate and present their own data. The finest raw materials on the planet walk onto campus and I get to work with an amazing group of supportive colleagues to help produce one of the most exciting products in the world: our next generation of scientists.

Westminster has given me the opportunity to develop many skills and afforded me flexibility whilst raising a young family. My role at the university has steadily grown and I have grown with it. As I become accustomed to course leadership, take my place on ethics committees, and explore the wider business of university life, I realize how much growing still lies ahead of me and I am excited to look to the future.

And what an amazing time to study or teach Bioscience; especially Genetics and Genomics. If you seek inspiration just go and see what Genomics England are doing. I am heading to the awesome Festival of Genomics next week to have my mind boggled.

To those of you who are perhaps seeking advice or inspiration about your career, I say, pick a direction that you like the look of and drive that way. Drive hard, but always have a plan B — and when plan A and B fail, go with the ‘make-it-up-as-I-go-along’ plan. I have found that the very best experiences and opportunities have come from having to do something different, unexpected and a bit scary. You can only steer the car if it is moving, so just go forward, confidently and steer as you go. Don’t forget to appreciate the amazing views as you go along and the wonderful people who are on the journey with you.

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