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Being a Female Research Fellow

What's it like being a research fellow in Malaria Epidemiology?

Hannah is a malaria scientist who lives in London. She likes to travel to exciting countries around the world. When in London, when not working, she can usually be found hanging out with friends or running incredibly slowly around local parks​.

Job title: Research Fellow in Malaria Epidemiology

Current employerImperial College London

Industry: Research

Hours: 35-40 hours per week on average

How long have you been practising in this field? 10 years.

Where are you based for work or which regions do you cover?

I am based in London but my research has a global application.

What’s it like being a research fellow and how do you spend most of your time?

I spend most of my time using maths to try and better understand malaria. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that lives in the blood of a human - when a mosquito bites a human, they pick up the parasite and can then pass it on to another person they bite. I use data and maths equations to figure out the biology and epidemiology of this disease and how best to try and eliminate it.

What does a typical day look like?

My job is highly varied - I get to travel a lot which I love, so lots of my time is spent in countries like Zambia or Senegal meeting with people there to discuss malaria and present my research. If I am in London, I spend a few hours a day meeting with students to discuss their projects and having phone calls with people I work with from all over the world to discuss research that we work together on.

The remainder of my time is spent writing academic articles describing my work to publish in science journals and actually doing the research! My research involves using maths for example to try and predict the impact of a new malaria control tool, or looking at data to try and figure out how the number of people that get sick with malaria has changed over time.


Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?

A degree in something scientific, normally maths, biology, physics or computer science, and generally a masters and PhD.

What did your career journey look like - how did you get to where you are today?

I started working as a postdoctoral researcher after my PhD - I then was awarded a fellowship in 2016 to allow me to work on my own research interests.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Maths and science.

Was there anything you liked doing at school that helped you get to this career?

I always really enjoyed trying to solve maths problems, and my job now is basically just trying to solve a really really complicated problem, that has the added benefit of improving people's lives and health and prevent deaths if we can figure out the answer.

What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?

I never had any idea what I wanted to be. I just chose to study subjects I enjoyed.

Can you remember your parents or teachers wanting or encouraging you to go into a specific career when you 'grew up'?

They weren't really worried about my future, as I always enjoyed and did pretty well at school.

Has anyone ever been surprised when you told them that you were in this role (as someone of your gender)? 

People are surprised that I have a background in maths.

What do you think are attitudes towards and expectations of women in your profession? What are some of the challenges?

The malaria field, especially at the more senior end is mostly men, so I think women have to work harder and try harder on average to be accepted and valued. Sometimes I feel I have to prove myself when I am in meetings where I am often one of the most junior and generally one of only a few women.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Travelling! I always make sure I stay in the country a few extra days, especially when I travel to African countries, I love to go on Safari after the work has been done!

What are 3 things you have to like to do your job? 

Freedom to work on problems that interest me, working with very smart and interesting people from around the world.

What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?

The best scientists are creative and thoughtful and it's certainly not a job just for the boys anymore! If you love maths or science, keep pursuing those at University.

Vital Statistics
  • Hours: 35 - 40 per week

  • Starting salary: PhD studentships, which allow you to study for a PhD while also carrying out research work, usually pay a stipend. The Research Councils UK national minimum doctoral stipend for 2017/18 is £14,553, but some employers may pay more. With a PhD, you may earn around £25,000 -£40,000, depending on your background, experience and specialist subjects. With experience, salaries range from £30,000 - £50,000+.

  • Qualifications required: A good honours degree with significant mathematical content, particularly mathematics or physics. Likely also a postgraduate qualification, usually a PhD.

Hannah with her colleagues at work.

"My job is highly varied - I get to travel a lot which I love, so my time is spent in countries like Zambia or Senegal, meeting with people there to discuss malaria and present my research."

- Hannah

One of Hannah's photos from safari in Africa!

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