Susannah (right) with nursing academic Shizuko Angerhofer from Iwate Prefectural University in Japan
Susannah (right) with nursing academic Shizuko Angerhofer from Iwate Prefectural University in Japan

What does an academic, clinical and research educationalist do when asked a question that one ponders over and cannot immediately answer? It's a trade secret but, of course, one asks the students. 

And listen to this - I the am so proud to say the following comment was made by a female undergraduate student really enjoying and engaging in both her degree programme and the great ambience and staff support she finds here at Plymouth.

I asked her quite simply how important science was to her as a young female developing her analytical fledging skills, and this is what she said:

"A good scientist wants to understand the world in depth, to discover through creation and exploration. A good scientist wants to inspire others, collaborating and sharing their discoveries and ideas. They feel that their success is the success of others and other's success is everyone's success. But most of all a good scientist wants to make a positive difference, a better future. Whether that be in discovering or helping people to discover and learn."

How inspiring is that?

This is the measure of the quality of our student population here at Plymouth. I always look to my students and excellent work colleagues to keep me enthused, passionate and completely engaged in my love of academia, higher education and clinical practice. These students, colleagues and clinical practitioners forever sharpen my focus on the many issues that challenge health practitioners today, both nationally and globally, as well as the many challenges and inspirations that require us to think through what it is to be a good citizen in today's changing cultural, economic and political climes. 

When I reflect on my career in health sciences - as an academic, and educationalist and clinical researcher - I feel so very privileged. Just some of the experiences I have had are to hear that wonderful first cry of a newborn; to hold the hand and be there for patients that are sick or dying; to aid students and colleagues in developing their evidence-based practice skills and support their clinical and educational research; to celebrate at their graduations and mark the achievement of personal and professional goals; to engage with excellent health care practitioners in an international context; and to work in war zones and areas affected by natural disasters and in areas of relative economic good fortune.

And so, how do we inspire others to engage in scientific activity and positively challenge the many historical, generational, institutional blocks that perhaps are becoming less of a problem for our sister generations? If we look at the below map of female representation in research and development globally, there is much yet to do.

Science as an epistemological philosophy and as an often surprisingly 'creative' - yet rigorous and systematised - method of enquiry should be an activity that everyone embraces as a life strategy, regardless of one's DNA identity. 

I hope I have enthused you, engaged you in always opening your mind creatively and critically to experience with all senses your life, your experience, your world.

As Marie Curie famously said - 'Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.'

And think a little on this .. To know the history of science is to recognise the mortality of any claim to universal truth. ( ~Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science 1995).

Female researchers are under-represented in every continent worldwide.

R&D figures
Percentage of women in Research and Development worldwide