International Women's Day: Supporting Women in Research

On the ever of International Women's Day, Dr Christina Bursill has been awarded the HRI’s inaugural Career Re-Start Grant, to support female researchers. 

The grant was launched in November last year, giving researchers who were pregnant, on maternity leave, or had returned in the last two years to the HRI the chance to apply for a £30,000 grant.

Dr Bursill, who has led the Immunobiology Group at the HRI since its formation in 2011, gave birth to her son Henry 8 months ago, and returned from maternity leave part-time in January. 

"I am very grateful and honoured to be the recipient of the first Career Re-start Grant," she said. "This is an important scheme that should be built upon for the future.

"I appreciate now, more than ever, that women absolutely need support if they are to remain competitive in medical research if they are primary carer of newborns and young children."

Dr Bursill will use the funds to employ a Research Officer, Laura Vanags, who has been an exceptional PhD student with the HRI and whose skills will provide an important springboard for a new research project aiming to reverse atherosclerosis (the build-up of fats in blood vessels). 

Fellow Group Leader, Dr Mary Kavurma, who leads the Vascular Complications Group was pivotal to establishing the research grant and knows the difficulty of starting a family while maintaining research output.
 
“It’s tough to stay competitive, because you are competing with people who are not taking time off,” she says, “I feel like sometimes women in research have to work twice as hard”.

While 63% of applicants for early career fellowships are women, this drops to just 11% at the most senior level 
- NHMRC

Dr Bursill started her science career at Adelaide University, Australia, gaining her Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in the Department of Physiology, and remained there to complete her PhD, studying the ways in which antioxidants regulate cholesterol metabolism. She then spent several years at Oxford University before returning to Sydney in 2007 and winning a prestigious National Heart Foundation Career Development Fellowship.

- Martha Tattersall
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