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Celebrating women in immunology

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We are passionate about raising diverse voices in immunology.

A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years in STEM disciplines all over the world, and while the number of women taking part in higher education has increased significantly, women are still underrepresented in these fields, particularly at senior levels.

The BSI wants to continue to recognise and celebrate women's contributions to the field of immunology by shining a spotlight on some of the brilliant women immunologists of our official journals Discovery Immunology, Immunotherapy Advances and Clinical & Experimental Immunology.

Below you will be able to find some of the journal Editors as well as members of our early career researcher (ECR) editorial boards of our official journals.

Jump to a profile below to find out more about how each of them started their career in immunology, their experiences in science and what advice they would give to other women and girls looking to have a career in science.

Please help us promote and celebrate diversity in immunology by sharing this page! You can also share your own message of support using the hashtag #WomenInImmunology.


Jump to a profile:

Professor Sandra Amor Sandra

Neuroimmunology Section Editor, Clinical & Experimental Immunology

Professor Amor is Professor and Head of Multiple Sclerosis Research in the Pathology Department of the VU University medical center (VUmc) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I was fascinated by biology after using a microscope for the first time aged 12. From then on, I wanted to know how the body works and why it goes wrong. After my father was diagnosed with a neurological disease it made me more curious about what was happening at a biological level to cause the disease.

What’s your current research focus?

My group, positioned in a clinical pathology department, is focussed on the pathology, virology and immunology of multiple sclerosis (MS) to understand how the innate immune system triggers damage to the central nervous system. We also focus on innate immunity in neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and AD, and viral infections including SARS-CoV-2.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Making new discoveries and adding findings to existing knowledge about diseases – MS in particular. It’s like doing multiple jigsaws without pictures as guides. This means you frequently have to reject pieces if they don’t fit the MS jigsaw but the findings may fit other jigsaws. The fun part is doing this with the team.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Gender equality is important in all walks of life, not just science. There has been and continues to be too much nepotism and closed networks meaning scientific discoveries are much slower than they need be. People should be judged on their merits and their contribution to science.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Go for it! Don’t let anyone hold you back. Have confidence in yourself and find a good mentor – whether they're a man or woman – that has science and your interests at heart.

Professor Marianne Boes Marianne

Deputy Editor, Immunotherapy Advances

Professor Boes is an Associate Professor at University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, where she heads up the pediatric immunology laboratory embedded in the Center for Translational Immunology.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I chose a career in science out of curiosity and a wish to somehow contribute to healthcare, which later turned out to mean doing laboratory research.

What’s your current research focus?

My current research focus is translational immunology: I think a lot of great science is being done that could be applied to patient use, and I try to improve the patients’ benefit of new research findings (from us or others).

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part is to assist talented and driven MSc and PhD level students in their development to become fully-fledged researchers who recognize the importance and fun of doing science and become critical thinkers along the way.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Any endeavour, also science, works better when gender (and all factors that make us whole humans) are considered, as people who can truly be themselves perform better, as individuals and as a group. You simply miss out on a better scientific endeavour when you exclude talent based on gender etc.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Go for it! Believe in yourself, look for role models, and ask for mentorship.

Dr Adriana Bonomo Adriana

Editorial Board Member, Immunotherapy Advances

Dr Bonomo is a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, where she leads the Translational Program for Cancer Research.

Why did you choose a career in science?

It was inevitable! Curiosity about how nature works is the mainspring that moves me towards science.

What’s your current research focus?

Currently we are looking at the immune response in different organs and its implications in cancer using a metastatic breast cancer model.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Looking at the results after building a hypothesis and designing thoughtful experiments to 'disprove' it, is the best of all things! On this path, discussing with the students and observing their growth is an enormous pleasure.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

I believe that when women scientists occupy more decision-making positions in scientific policy, discrimination will end. I was discriminated against in my first post-doc position when my mentor found out I was a single parent and I was sent to another lab. I left the lab after 4 months and after that, I worked with two wonderful people, who respected the boundaries between personal and professional.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

If you really love it, go for it! No matter who you are, gender, ethnicity…science teaches us to use the best methodology for choosing the way we want to live in the absence of any prejudice. Just make your dream come true!

Professor Tao Dong Tao

Editorial Board Member, Immunotherapy Advances

Professor Dong is a Professor of Immunology in the MRC Human Immunology Unit, Founding Director of CAMS-Oxford joint International Centre for Translational Immunology and Founding Director of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Oxford Institute (COI), at the University of Oxford, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I never thought I would end up in science; growing up I wanted to be a mathematician. However, I was encouraged by my father to study physiology in university and have never looked back.

What’s your current research focus?

I study a type of immune cells called T-killer cells, which are an important defence mechanism of the body against viral and cancer cells. In the past 12 months, most of my attention has been focused on understanding the role of SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses and how this correlates with disease outcome in COVID-19 patients.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love interacting with students and postdocs in the lab; discussing their data and planning new experiments. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities! Although I don’t have much time to conduct my own experiments, the lab has been so busy the past 12 months I have been helping out as much as I can, and I loved it!

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

In China, we were told girls hold up half of the sky. This is true! I have never seen myself differently from my colleagues who are men when it comes to science.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Find a good mentor for each stage of your career. There are going to be set-backs and it is important to be resilient and not give up easily. But most importantly; believe in yourself!

Professor Awen Gallimore Awen

Senior Editor, Discovery Immunology

Professor Gallimore is Co-Director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

Science was my favourite subject in school and thereafter it was a mix of chance encounters, lucky breaks and hard work.

What’s your current research focus?

It’s recently become clear that the immune system can respond to at least some cancers but that it's prevented from doing so by layers of regulation. I’m trying to find out more about these layers and how we can break through them.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The best bit is undoubtedly discussing new findings and what they might mean with my team. Dare I say it...I quite like writing grants. The pressure aside, grants writing is a good way of synthesising ideas (and realising which ones aren’t very good!).

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

In science and beyond, gender equity is crucial for driving progress as creatively and as efficiently as possible. From a personal point of view, I love the humour and empathy of my women colleagues. Very life-affirming.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

There is so much to a career in science beyond biology, chemistry and physics A levels! Explore what’s out there and go for it.

Dr Emily Gwyer Findlay Emily

Senior Editor, Discovery Immunology

Dr Gwyer Findlay is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Science at the University of Southampton, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I nearly didn’t – I loved languages too, and had a hard choice at school! Eventually I did a degree in Biochemistry and Spanish, which suited me well. I really enjoyed the immunology lectures I took as part of this course and so I chose to look at that further during my PhD. I think I have never really consciously chosen a career in immunology, it’s just that I’ve enjoyed every stage so much I have kept going!

What’s your current research focus?

I have my own lab looking broadly at how neutrophils affect T cells. We know these two types of immune cells are present at the same places at the same time during immune responses, but we don’t really have much idea how they interact. This is what we’re trying to work out.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I really love supervising students. I have two PhD students now and take lots of MSc and undergraduate students in my lab. I really enjoy helping them learn immunology and understand how wonderful (and mind-bending) it is.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Well, for obvious fairness reasons. But more than that, it seems to me we won’t answer important scientific questions if only a very narrow section of people are applying their brains to the problems. Diverse teams are more likely to come up with creative solutions.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

I would say that, in immunology we have made great strides in recruiting women into PhDs and postdocs. I find the field to be welcoming and supportive. However, we still have significant work to do in retaining and promoting women at more senior levels. This is something we are working to improve.

Dr Mahnaz JameeMahnaz Jamee

ECR Editorial Board Member, Clinical & Experimental Immunology

Dr Jamee is a Research Fellow at Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I was inspired by my father who was a biology teacher in college. As a little girl, I had the opportunity to play with human anatomy model and look at posters showing plant development.

What’s your current research focus?

I research the clinical, immunological and molecular characteristics of patients with inborn errors of immunity. Thanks to the development of new techniques in next-generation sequencing, every year we discover more disorders are related to an abnormality in the immune system, explaining the cause of unknown diseases.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

You are always learning and amazed by the wonderful things that constitute parts of the world you are living in. In addition, the fact that what you find in research is going to somehow facilitate the diagnosis and management of future patients is very fulfilling.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Society can never achieve its full potential in science when women face gender discrimination and cannot actualise their ideas. As Stephen Hawking said: “It is not scientific proof of gender equality that is required, but general acceptance that women are at least the equals of men or better."

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Keep trying for what you believe is right! You may not receive credit proportionate to the effort you put into your work. In this situation, consistency and perseverance have the final say.

Dr Marzena Lenart

ECR Editorial Board Member, Clinical & Experimental Immunology     
Marzena Lenart

Dr Lenart is an Assistant Professor at Jagiellonian University, Poland.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I chose science due to my interest in the immune system. Being a scientist is a great job for people that love new challenges, being creative and who might get bored in ordinary and repetitive work.

What’s your current research focus?

My research area focuses on the modulation of immune responses in viral infection, mainly the alterations of natural killer cell function.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Discovery! I am most excited when I get new results and analyse them – this is still the best part of my work.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Although women make up the majority in my research area, professorships are mainly held by men. It is time for women to have equal opportunities for promotion to senior positions.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

It is great fun and a big adventure to be a scientist, although I cannot say it is an easy job.

Dr Cindy Ma Cindy

Immunodeficiency Section Editor, Clinical & Experimental Immunology

Dr Ma co-heads the Human Immune Disorders Lab at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I was interested in how the immune system functions and science is a real way of making a difference in people’s lives.

What’s your current research focus?

My current research focus is on primary immunodeficiencies and determining how different gene defects compromise the immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to disease.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The favourite part of my job is the different places and countries science takes you to and the amazing people you meet along the way – clearly this was pre-COVID-19!

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Gender equity in science is important to me as women should have the same opportunities as men no matter what profession they choose. A career in science offers a lot of flexibility, which is especially important if you have a young family.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Go for it! You never know what is on the other side and where a career in science will take you!

Dr Dessi Malinova

ECR Editorial Board Member, Clinical & Experimental ImmunologyDessi Malinova

Dr Malinova is a Group Leader at the Queen's University Belfast, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I was always driven to find out and understand more. Science was the subject I paid attention in and enjoyed the most in school.

What’s your current research focus?

We are interested in how immune cells interact and pass on information to mount protective immune responses. This will influence studies of infectious diseases, autoimmunity and cancer immunology.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The thrill around new results, new ideas, new team members… I’m also learning to love writing!

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Gender equity allows us to build diverse and inclusive teams. This is critical for driving science forward with creativity and innovation.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Be bold! Reach out to those already in science careers (they will be happy to hear from you!) and speak to mentors and colleagues at every stage.

Professor Kathleen McCoy Kath

Editorial Board Member, Discovery Immunology

Professor McCoy is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Calgary, Canada, and Scientific Director of the International Microbiome Centre.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I was always fascinated with biology and physiology. I was particularly amazed at how our immune system managed to keep us healthy. A career in science allowed me to constantly ask questions and learn.

What’s your current research focus?

My research focuses on the dynamic interplay between the gut microbiota and the immune system. I try to elucidate how the intestinal microbiome educates and regulates the immune system, especially during early life, and how this keeps us healthy or can drive disease.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love being able to continually ask new questions, to follow the science and discover new mechanisms. I also really love the ability to interact and collaborate with researchers all over the world.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Gender equity in science is essential to reach the full potential of scientific discovery. Gender equity and diversity promotes excellence and will benefit all aspects of society.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

I would encourage them! I would also stress the importance of seeking out strong mentors, scientific advisors and role models and to build a supportive network.

Dr Carolyn Nielsen

ECR Editorial Board Member, Clinical & Experimental ImmunologyCarolyn Nielsen

Dr Nielsen is a Senior Immunologist at the University of Oxford, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I really enjoyed biology in school and then was drawn towards immunology during my undergraduate degree. I was especially attracted by the idea of using our understanding of immunology to address public health problems in a practical way, such as through the development of effective vaccines to prevent disease.

What’s your current research focus?

My current research centres around trying to understand the impact of timing between vaccine doses. I’m particularly interested in the effect of delayed booster dosing on your B cell response (the cells that make antibodies). I work mainly in Oxford, with some travel to collaborators in the USA and Tanzania.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The variety is great – I spend some time in lab running experiments, and then some time at my desk analysing data, reading about other research, or writing my own papers to report our findings. It’s exciting to get new data and learn something no one has known before!

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

I’ve had the pleasure to work with many excellent colleagues at a range of research institutions and there’s clearly no link between gender and your ability to excel in science. Equitable representation is also important to avoid gendered bias in research priorities/funding.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Science gives the opportunity to combine intellectually engaging work with the potential for real societal impact, often with a lot of autonomy over your time day-to-day. There’s a huge range of fields to work in so definitely look into it if you’re at all curious – you’d be very welcome!

Dr Fränze Progatzky

ECR Editorial Board Member, Clinical & Experimental Immunology

Franze ProgatzkyDr Progatzky is a Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research (KTRR) Group Leader in Tissue Biology at the University of Oxford, UK and a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow.

Why did you choose a career in science?

Curiosity! I have always been intrigued to figure out how things work.

What’s your current research focus?

My research focuses on the interactions between the nervous system and the immune system in the gut. I am trying to uncover how glial cells communicate with immune cells to keep our gut healthy.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love being able to learn new things every day and to continually ask new questions. I also really love interacting with so many other scientists all over the world and supervising and teaching the next generation of scientists.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Science needs everyone. Important discoveries are only made through collaboration and by recognising that all of us are individuals that think and work differently. No one should be excluded.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Go for it! Believe in yourself and do what you enjoy most! Find role models and get support from mentors.

Professor Leonie Taams Leonie

Editor-in-Chief, Clinical & Experimental Immunology

Professor Taams is Head of the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, Director of the Centre for Inflammation Biology and Cancer Immunology and Professor of Immune Regulation and Inflammation at King’s College London, UK.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I have always been fascinated by the beauty of biological systems, and how these drive our development, maintain our health but also contribute to disease. Science, and immunology in particular, allows me to try to decipher some aspects of this.

What’s your current research focus?

My lab aims to identify cellular and molecular mechanisms that initiate, perpetuate and regulate inflammation in chronic immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. We have a particular focus on the immunopathology of rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My job is so multi-faceted that it is difficult to choose a favourite part! Having said that, a particularly rewarding aspect of my work is to see the students and staff around me develop and progress.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Because science should reflect everyone, both in terms of the people who conduct science, and those who benefit from science – which is everyone.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Go for it: as long as you are curious and are not afraid to experiment and ask questions, there is a place and need for you in science.

Dr Meera Ramanujam Meera

Senior Editor, Discovery Immunology

Dr Ramanujam is Sr Director, Head of Translational Research at Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease, based in Boston, USA.

Why did you choose a career in science?

Growing up I was fascinated by chemistry and the interactions between molecules, which turned into a curiosity for biochemistry, especially as it pertains to human systems and disease.

What’s your current research focus?

Together with my team, I work to develop new treatment options for patients with immunological diseases.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Understanding disease mechanisms and seeing the effect of drugs we develop improving patients’ lives.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

Gender equity is not uniform across all scientific disciplines. We need this for women to shine and be in the forefront and not be the workforce who do things in the background.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Science provides a huge opportunity to reveal your innovative thinking, push your limits and make a difference to humankind.

 

Professor Eda Patricia Tenorio

ECR Editorial Board Member, Immunotherapy AdvancesEda Patricia Tenorio

Professor Tenorio is a professor of immunology at UNAM, Mexico.

Why did you choose a career in science?

Curiosity. I was always intrigued by how things work and when I learned about cells I was fascinated by them. After watching the movie “Outbreak” I decided to become an immunologist.

What’s your current research focus?

I work with T cells. Membrane proteins can be decorated with different kinds of molecules, like carbohydrates. We analyse how different sugar structures help T cells to perform their job.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Experimental design and data analysis. These are the activities where I feel that my creativity can flow more freely.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

All humans have great ideas, if we do not allow all genders to participate in science, we are missing at least half of these amazing thoughts.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

Believe in yourself and question everything. People and social systems might try to convince you that science is too hard or that women do not belong in a lab. But consider: are these ideas about you, or old beliefs waiting to be proven wrong? Every change that you make in your life helps the world evolve.

 

Dr Kirsten Ward-Hartstonge

ECR Editorial Board Member, Immunotherapy AdvancesKirsten Ward-Hartsonge

Dr Ward-Hartstonge is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Why did you choose a career in science?

I love learning and discovering how things work. I want to use this passion to help people have a better quality of life.

What’s your current research focus?

I look at immune cells from people that are in clinical trials. I want to find out if certain immune cells can help a person get better or tell us if a drug is working or not.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love meeting and working with a diverse group of people who have the same overall goal as me.

Why is gender equity in science important to you?

I believe different genders bring unique perspectives and essential qualities to research teams, allowing science to progress more effectively. This hopefully allows more people to benefit from scientific discoveries from these diverse teams.

What would you say to women and girls who are looking to have a career in science?

If you love science, then go for it! It is hard career, but totally worth it if you are in it for the right reasons. It is important to find a team of mentors that you trust, including some women.