Over the centuries women have made significant contributions to the various fields that make up life sciences.
Women in our School of Life Sciences continue to make important contributions to their specialist fields, from biomedical science and genetics, to plant science and marine biology.
We hold leadership roles in our School and across the wider university, take part in outreach activities to encourage more young people to study life sciences, and hold external roles with journals and professional societies.
Find out more about some of the women in our department below, and click to see their profiles and find out more about their research.
Senior Lecturer for Medical MicrobiologySchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Selwa Alsam is the Director and Professional Lead of Biomedical Science Course (UG). She has a broad interest in all aspects of infectious disease and hospital-related infections. She is an active verifier and assessor of more than 45 registration and specialist portfolios representing the University and the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), and has recently been awarded the Champion of Biomedical Science in East Anglia. In addition to her teaching and research responsibilities, Selwa is very actively involved in a range of outreach activities, taking part in a number of University events and Open days and more recently running the Summer School at the University. Selwa is currently the Head of the Academic Iraqi Association in the UK.
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical ScienceSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Louise Beard is the Course Director for Biological Sciences and Human Biology BSc courses. Louise is the Athena Swan Lead for the School of Life Sciences, Senior Tutor and Peer Mentor Coordinator. She sits on Athena Swan Assessment panels and is a member of the IBMS cellular pathology Advisory Group, a member of the Genetics Society and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Louise teaches on mainly biomedical-facing courses such as anatomy and physiology, cell biology and human genetics, as well as running final year research projects in cancer biology.
Senior Lecturer in Plant Molecular Biology and Director of RecruitmentSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Ulrike Bechtold is the study abroad officer for outgoing undergraduate students, generally promoting the year abroad in the School and mentoring students during the application process and their year abroad. Ulrike's research combines physiological, molecular genetics and computational approaches to identify novel genes controlling responses to drought stress in model plants and crop species. Her work has led to the translation of a novel gene into major crop plants for field testing. Ulrike also regularly participates in outreach activities such as AS level Biology conferences, Science Week, the Fascination of Plants day and University open days.
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Biology and Director of EducationSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Leanne Appleby Hepburn is involved with teaching on numerous UG courses including Ecology, Fisheries Science, Marine Biology and Conservation Management. Leanne’s role as curriculum director involves strategic direction of degree schemes and management of environmental biology modules, including meeting student expectations. She supervises PhD students in Biodiversity Offsetting and Fisheries Management. Externally, Leanne is a Trustee at Essex Wildlife trust and work closely with them in both research and teaching. Other collaborators include Natural England and IFCA (Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority).
Professor of Plant Physiology and Director of Essex Plant Innovation CentreSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Professor Tracy Lawson is the School's Director of Impact and is involved in undergraduate teaching in plant biology. She has over 20 years’ research experience in plant physiology with research interests in photosynthesis and stomatal physiology. She has been PI and Co-PI on research projects funded by NERC, BBSRC, and the EU and supervises a research laboratory of post-doctoral researchers, technicians and PhD students. She is an author or co-author on over 100 peer-reviewed research papers and book chapters. She is an adjunct professor at Vellore Institute of Technology, India as well as a Gatsby Plant Science Mentor.
Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)School of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Christine is our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), our former Head of School, and the University’s Director of Athena SWAN. She holds a number of prestigious external roles including Editor in Chief, Journal of Experimental Botany. Her research interests are in the areas of photosynthesis, genetic manipulation of carbon metabolism, field studies on the impact of elevated CO2 on carbon fixation and on acclimatory responses of diatoms.
LecturerSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Michelle’s research interests span the molecular to the ocean-level and have included studies on shallow and deep-water coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass. Her main focus is the deep-sea and its many and varied benthic habitats. The deep-sea is the largest habitat on the planet and arguably the least well known. Broadly she is interested in deep-sea ecosystems, exploring them, what drives their biodiversity, and how we can limit human impacts in vulnerable habitats such as coral reefs, hydrothermal vents, and seamounts.
LecturerSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Aurélie Villedieu did her PhD at UCL in molecular microbiology and then worked as a Biomedical Scientist for 14 years. Thanks to her experience she is now supervising the placement of 3rd year students in a Pathology lab across Essex and other counties and is also involved with the teaching of undergraduates.
Senior Lecturer in Environmental MicrobiologySchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Corinne Whitby is very active in the promotion of women in science, and has contributed to several outreach activities to promote women in science including the development of the School’s Women in Life Science (WILS) webpage and the Biology for Schools Day. In addition to her research and teaching responsibilities, Corinne is the founder and co-organiser of the successful ISMOS (International Symposium on Applied Molecular Microbiology in Oil systems) symposium series which brings together academia and industry.
Whatever your background, your passion for life sciences is what matters. Our university offers policies and support for staff across academia and professional services, giving you the support you need to thrive in our department.
At Essex we know that studying a degree appeals to people from all walks of life. Many of our degrees, from undergraduate to postgraduate research, can be undertaken on a part-time basis. This gives you an opportunity to study around commitments such as family or care responsibilities, which can often deter women from taking part in higher or further education.
The university also offers support for students who may need support with mental health, specific learning difficulties, or who have other accessibility needs.