Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ladies Who Lab #3 Elanor

This months segment of Ladies Who Lab has been written by Elanor. Some of you may know her as the author of Tiggy Poes and Flutterbys but I know her as a friend, colleague and work wife. Also doing a PhD, but 2 years above me, Elanor has a fantastic story of how she got to where she is now but I'll let her tell you...


Hi, I’m Elanor and Sarahjane has been asking me to write this post for a wee while now, and I believe it’s my fault that June’s monthly segment was missing – sorry again! Research is often a stressful area to work in, so given that blogging takes a backseat to my career right now, I’ve had to postpone my story until now…

Whenever asked where my love of science came from, I’m never sure where to begin. I could say that I’ve always been curious about how things work, but curiosity is a trait common to all children. I suppose I always felt a need to try and excel in everything I did, and science just happened to be one of my better subjects. When it came to high school, I realised that science splits into three distinct areas (biology, chemistry and physics), but I was still determined to pursue all three in my desire to be the best I could!

I was lucky enough to be sent on a week-long residential trip to Heriot Watt University while studying for my Standard Grades, which was exclusively aimed at getting girls into science - I believe this is where my love of chemistry really began. After taking part in various experiments, I knew that I HAD to go to university and develop a career as a scientist!
I studied hard, got good grades and applied for chemistry degrees at various universities across the UK. Pretty soon, the acceptance letters arrived through the door – St Andrews, Edinburgh, York, Glasgow, Strathclyde and I’d even been accepted onto a course at Heriot Watt that included a year away in North America – my dream was closer than ever!
Then the two pink lines appeared…

Suddenly my whole world collapsed as I was faced with being a pregnant teenager, still at high school, with no prospects for the future. All my university places were declined and instead of escaping with the rest of my friends, I remained at home, transferring half of my bedroom into a nursery.

But children are not a limitation, instead they spur you on to be the best version of yourself possible! I refused to be another statistic and reapplied to the only university within easy travelling distance of my home – Strathclyde in Glasgow!


As I sit here typing (on the eve of my daughter’s tenth birthday), I look back on all my achievements and feel proud. I have an upper second class MSc degree in chemistry, and am going into the last year of my PhD in pharmaceutical science. However, not only did I spend five years as an undergraduate with a child, I also added to my brood before jumping into the PhD!

Trudging through an academic environment while raising a young family is far from the easiest route to parenthood, but I’m also determined to prove that children do not kill your ambitions! While my son is not old enough to understand, I know my daughter is determined to pursue her dreams with a similar level of ambition. I try not to influence her with my science background, but she’s already eyeing up a career as an astrophysicist for NASA – if that’s not a win for the girls, I don’t know what is! 


 I don't have children but coming from a working class and single parent family I suffered from a similar prejudice of never doing much with my life. I like Elanor worked hard and against those feelings and made it to a PhD. You can read about my career in Science and how I got there here.

Have you ever felt life was trying to stop your career? How did you overcome it? Any advice for future female scientists?

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32 comments

  1. Not a science lover myself but I was always pleased when there were schemes to get Girls into Engineering or Science! Great post x

    Abi ~ https://abigailporter1.wordpress.com

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    1. I'm always happy to see these schemes too! I try get involved with them as much I can

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  2. Laziness and being content is what stops you. A doctorate is no easy task. Very well done.

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    1. Definitely agree that hardwork and dedication will get you far in life

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  3. This was such a great post! I was a teen mum too and I have never felt my daughter put my life on hold, instead she just put it on a different path as in I didn't go to the places I wanted to go to gain my qualifications but still went down the road I wanted to follow with a sheer amount of determination. I carried on all my studies at college to get my qualification while she was 6 months old and holding down a job as well, she now has a sheer amount of determination about what she wants to do with her life too as I have taught her anything is possible xx

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    1. I admire any parent who can juggle children and education/work. I don't have kids myself and I sometimes have difficultly finding a good work:life balance.

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  4. Such a great post, she should be so proud that she went back to university and didn't just become another statistic of a parent who wasn't able to finish their education. I never got into sciences when I was at school and I wish I had paid more attention to them x

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  5. I don't think children stop you, people might find it a bit harder as it's more to juggle but you're proof it can be done. I've seen a friend who had 2 children and pregnant with her 3rd graduate from uni two years ago - it's possible!

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    1. Elanor is definitely inspiring as is any parent in education or work! It's amazing to see!

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  6. This is a great post. I wasn't into science at school, I was more into the arts x

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    1. My art teacher urged me to take art and I did for a while but science won over! I still have a creative side though :)

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  7. What a great post. Just shows that you should let children hold you back xxx

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    1. Exactly! I'm glad they didn't hold Elanor back as I would never have met her!

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  8. You've done amazing and I'm so happy that you didn't give up on your dreams when you became first pregnant. I know lots of girls who do, but you're a real hero!!

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    1. I'm sure Elanor will be so pleased to read this! She is a hero! :)

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  9. wow - inspiring. I completely agree that children are not a limitation if you truly have your mind set on something x

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    1. Exactly! Children are a blessing not a hurdle to get over :)

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  10. I love her attitude. She can and does have it all! It's such a neat thing to see!

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  11. I really love this series! Great way to show that science is a girl thing :)

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  12. Loved this post - shows nothing is holding you back X

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  13. I think that is amazing that you managed to achieve so much despite having young children. Well done you hun x

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  14. My sister in law wants to do midwifery but fell pregnant with my nephew who is now 3. She would like to go back to university to do it still but they just can't afford for her to stop working. Hopefully one day she will figure it out and do what she has always wanted to do.

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    1. I'm sure it'll happen for her! Has she looked into part time courses? My aunt does one because she can't afford to stop working either

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  15. I think it's awesome that she went back to uni. Something to be proud of!

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  16. Good luck, science can be great fun and having children shouldn't stop you educating yourself further.

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  17. I love Elanor, and I loved this post - she's an inspiration.

    Lis / last year's girl x

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