This is the first in a series of quick fire interviews with Ingenious Women alumni. The Ingenious Women programme has been running in Scotland for eight years and over 130 women have been on the programme.
Dr Margaret Rose Cunningham
Chancellor’s Research Fellow
University of Strathclyde, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS)
1) Please describe your professional background and current role.
I started my career as a modern apprentice laboratory technician at the University of Glasgow at the age of 17 where I was based at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. During this time I attended college day-release over a 5 year period to achieve a HNC in applied biological sciences and then a HND in biomedical sciences. I also completed my SVQ level 2 and 3 in laboratory and associated techniques. I decided to leave my technical position and continue my studies at the University of Strathclyde where I was a direct entry student into Year 3 of their BSc (Hons) Biochemistry and Pharmacology degree programme. It was the first time I had experienced pharmacology as a topic and I really enjoyed it so I decided to continue on that track at postgraduate level. I was successfully awarded an AJ Clark PhD Studentship from the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) and I started my career investigating the pharmacology of surface proteins called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and consequences of GPCR dimerisation.
When I completed my PhD in 2010, I applied for fellowships – whilst unsuccessful, some valuable feedback from the process recommended that I move and experience a research environment outside of the Glasgow area. Looking back, I completely agree with the advice I received. For my first postdoctoral position I moved to the University of Bristol to work with the Bristol Platelet Group to research platelet GPCRs and GPCR-protein interactions. After 4 years in Bristol, the opportunity emerged to start my own research group through the Chancellor’s Research Fellow Scheme back in the University of Strathclyde. In 2014 I returned to Strathclyde with a Chancellor’s Fellowship where I have a growing research group investigating cardiovascular GPCR function in cardiotoxicity and design of new GPCR molecules as potential new cardiovascular therapies. Other roles in my current position include lecturer in pharmacology for undergraduate students, co-director of SIPBS Outreach and co-lead of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic group.
2) Why did you apply to the IWS programme?
When I saw the IWS programme advertised, my motivation to apply was largely to expand my professional network in enterprise and meet new people at a similar career stage.
3) What did you take away from the IWS programme?
The network that has formed since the IWS programme has been excellent and continues to grow. Several events have been held since the retreat which has kept the momentum going and helped to strengthen the network. I met so many wonderful people during the retreat and I still keep in touch with many of them regularly and meet up.
4) What has been the highlight of your career so far?
One of the highlights of my career so far is being elected as an RSE Young Academy of Scotland member recently in 2018. This is another example of a great network of professionals spanning academia, business, industry and policy etc. The backgrounds of the members are so diverse with great opportunities to be part of activities that have high societal impact.
5) What three career recommendations would you give to early career researchers?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and take the time to find a good mentor.
- Use every opportunity to meet new people both within and outside your area of expertise.
- Look into courses that offer professional development training. This could be anything from leadership, project/time/people management to writing, presentation or communication skills.
You can follow Margaret on Twitter @MagRoseCun