Talent in Diversity

Over the course of this year’s Black History Month, we’ve been celebrating the diversity of talent that we have here at the Crick, with events, talks and people profiles. Here, three of our scientists, Nathalie, Anaid, and Jade, reflect on their paths into research and why diversity in science is critical to its success.
  • Date created: 31 October 2018
  • News Type:
  • Profile

columns

Nathalie Legrave

legrave

Senior Laboratory Research Scientist, Metabolomics STP

Nathalie has been working at the Crick since 2017. After obtaining her PhD in 2013 from the University of Nice, she developed her competencies in metabolomics during two research fellowships; in Rennes, France and Aberdeen, UK. Nathalie's work at the Crick covers her various interests, including cancer metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction.

How did you get into science?

I grew up on the tiny French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe but I knew from a young age that, to pursue my dream of becoming a scientist, I needed to move abroad. So, in my early twenties I moved to France to study organic chemistry and stayed there for my PhD. I’ve been living and working in Europe ever since and joined the Crick in 2017.

What does your job involve?

I use different analytical instruments (including both Liquid and Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) in order to detect and quantify products of metabolism in cells, tissues or microorganisms. Scientists from across the institute come to the metabolomics platform, where I am working, with their research questions and we work together to find innovative ways of answering them.

At each stage of my career I didn’t realise that what I was doing was a big deal. But when I reflect on it now I realise that I overcame so many challenges, both as a woman and being black, in order to get to where I am now.

Why is diversity in science so important?

For me, diversity in science is a no brainer; scientific progress relies on problem solving and collaboration. Groups composed of people with diverse experiences and areas of expertise tend to be more creative and innovative.

In my opinion, the most important thing we can do to broaden diversity in science is to create role models for younger generations to look up to, so they realise they can be scientists, too.

column 2

Anaid Benitez

Anaid Benitez

 Postdoctoral Training Fellow, DNA Recombination and Repair Lab

Before joining the Crick in 2016, Anaid completed her PhD at in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami. She’s now continuing to study the role of structure selective endonucleases at DNA damage sites as part of her post-doctoral research.

Did you always want to be a scientist?

I was born in La Habana, Cuba, under the relentless leadership of Fidel Castro. When I was nine years old, my family made the decision to emigrate so they could provide me with more opportunities for growth and success.

After a short stint in Spain, we moved to the USA, where I stayed for the duration of my education. For a long time, Maths was my favourite subject because it was the same in every country. It was only when I got to university and had an opportunity to do some lab work, that I realised how exciting scientific research could be.

What do you research?

At the Crick (which I call the ‘Disneyland’ of science to my friends!) I research how DNA damages are repaired. Studying this process in healthy cells helps us understand what goes wrong in cells that turn cancerous. These insights can hopefully help to inform future avenues of cancer therapy.

Who inspires you?

I take inspiration from those of a similar cultural background to me who have carved out their own path to success. For instance, this month, Deborah Gabriel came to the Crick to talk about her experience as a woman of colour in academia and how she has navigated success. Her talk really resonated with me and I hope that I can be a role model for other people thinking about going into academia.

column 3

Jade Williams-Gill

Jade Williams-Gill

Research Scientist, Biological Research Facility

Jade joined the Crick in 2015 as an animal technician. After acquiring her Home Office License, she moved to Jean Langhorne's Malaria Immunology Laboratory. Now, Jade works in the Genetic Modification Services (GeMs) within the Crick.

How did you get into science?

I was born in Newham, East London and grew up in Essex. My mother is of Caribbean heritage and my father was born in Kenya, of Indian descent. As well as my father being a chemical scientist, my A Level Biology teacher was another person who inspired me to go into science. He made everything so fun; from experiments, to trips to the Natural History Museum. That’s how I ended up studying animal biology at the University of Worcester.

What does your role involve?

After joining the Crick as an animal technician, I’m now working in Genetic Modification Services (GeMs) where we produce genetically altered animals and pluripotent cells with specialised techniques. It’s been a natural flow. Joining the Crick has given me opportunities I would never have thought of. It’s opened a lot of doors and I think it will continue to do so as my career progresses.

What inspires you?

For me, being a scientist at the Crick is being a part of the future and making real change; every day we are working to fight diseases and develop potential cures. It’s incredible to be in such a collaborative environment, where everyone talks about what they’re doing, but also to work so closely with my team – we’re like a family!

What role does your race play in your career?

The stereotype of a scientist as white and male very much still exists and I think it puts off a lot of BAME students from pursuing a career in STEM. I’ve never seen my race as a barrier though. In fact, it’s spurred me on and made me recognise the importance of what’s being done to improve diversity in science. I hope that more talented individuals from ethnic backgrounds enter into STEM careers and help revolutionise academic science.