Students Staff

Women in Biological Sciences

The School of Biological Sciences has a large and vibrant community of female scientists working at all levels in research, teaching, management and outreach.

Christine Raines "The School of Biological Sciences is committed to promoting a positive and inclusive working environment for all our scientists.

We support women at all stages of their career, from undergraduates all the way to professors."
Christine Raines, Head of School

Athena Swan The University of Essex has a Women in Science Network to support female staff and students in STEM subjects and was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in November 2013 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.

The School of Biological Sciences achieved a Bronze Departmental Award in November 2014.

Staff profiles

  • Professor Christine Raines

    Christine RainesProfessor Christine Raines is Head of the School of Biological Sciences and the University’s Director of Athena SWAN. She holds a number of prestigious external roles including Editor in Chief, Journal of Experimental Botany and until earlier this year was the Chair of Plant Section, Society of Experimental Biology.

    Christine’s 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 acclamatory responses of diatoms. She has authored or co-authored approximately 70 peer-reviewed research papers, and six reviews or book chapters.

  • Dr Corinne Whitby

    Corinne WhitbyDr Corinne Whitby (Senior Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology) is very active in the promotion of women in science, acting as Convenor for the School’s Athena SWAN Silver Award Application. Corinne has contributed to several outreach activities to promote women in Science including the development of the School’s Women in Biological Science (WIBS) 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 and is currently co-organising ISMOS-5, Norway 2015.

  • Professor Elena Klenova

    Elena KlenovaProfessor Elena Klenova is a Professor of Molecular Oncology. She has extensive experience in the areas of gene regulation and molecular mechanisms of tumourigenesis. Elena was closely involved in the discovery and characterisation of a transcription factor, CTCF and a related protein, BORIS, which have now become the focus of modern research into the organization and function of the nucleus of eukaryotic cells. As Director of the Essex Biomedical Sciences Institute (EBSI), Elena works in close collaboration with the clinicians on the translational aspects of her research, in particular cancer biomarkers. Elena plays important roles in the School’s leadership and management team. She is a founder and current Director of our MSc Molecular Medicine and Director of the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Group. She is an author or co-author of more than 60 research papers, reviews and book chapters.

  • Dr Selwa Alsam

    Dr Selwa Alsam (Lecturer in Medical Microbiology) is the Director of MSc Biomedical Science and the Lead Professional for BMS (UG). Selwa has a broad interest in all aspects of infectious disease and hospital-related infections. She is an active verifier and assessor of more than 15 registration and specialist portfolios representing the University and the Institute of Biomedical Science. 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.

  • Dr Leanne Hepburn

    Leanne Appleby HepburnDr Leanne Appleby Hepburn (Lecturer and Curriculum Director for Environmental Biology) 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).

  • Dr Julie Lloyd

    Julie LloydDr Julie Lloyd (Senior Lecturer in Genetics, Director of Education) is a key member of the School’s senior management team with responsibility for managing and implementing the teaching strategy. This role encompasses diverse areas ranging from curriculum development to assessment and progress of undergraduate students. It involves working with different groups within the School, such as Course Directors and individual academic staff and also with student representatives and administrative staff. Duties include chairing various School committees such as the Education Strategy Group and Student Staff Liaison Committee. Her teaching includes Genetics and Evolution at first year level and Human Genetics modules taught to second and final year students.

  • Dr Louise Beard

    Louise Beard Dr Louise Beard (lecturer in Biomedical Science) is involved with the teaching of a range of undergraduate modules, including molecular cell biology, cellular pathology, human genetics and anatomy and physiology. Louise also supervises students on placements within hospital laboratories. Louise has a background in molecular genetics and has worked in hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry and in academic research.

    Louise was awarded the Daphne Jackson Trust fellowship in open competition. Alongside Louise’s teaching responsibilities, she has participated in outreach activities such as AS level Biology conferences, Health Science conference, the Big Bang conference and university open days.

  • Dr Ulrike Bechtold

    Ulrike BechtoldDr Ulrike Bechtold (Lecturer in Plant Molecular Biology) 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. Ulrike's research 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 Plant's day and University open days.

  • Professor Tracy Lawson

    Tracy LawsonProfessor Tracy Lawson is the School's Director of Impact and is involved in first and second year teaching in plant biology. She has 20 years’ research experience in plant physiology with research interests in photosynthesis and stomatal physiology. She has also applied her extensive experience in chlorophyll fluorescence techniques determined for higher plant systems to algae. She has been PI and Co-PI on several research projects funded by NERC, BBSRC, EU and KAU and supervises or co-supervised 18 PhD students. Tracy is an author or co-author on more than 50 peer-reviewed research papers and book chapters, and has acted as a reviewer for NSF grant applications as well as numerous plant and algae journals. Tracy is a handling editor for The Journal of Experimental Botany. She is also an active member of the SEB special interest group Plant Environmental Physiology group (PEPg) and is the main organiser of the biennial techniques workshop.

Outreach activities

Dr Nicky Slee is the School’s Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer and coordinates a wide range of activities for schools, undergraduate students and the general public. See below for some examples of the School’s recent outreach activities.

  • The Science of Life - How the Body Works competition

    Dr Valerie Gladwell was the lead judge for ‘The Science of Life - How the Body Works’ competition at the Physiological Society Annual Conference in June 2014. Valerie started this competition in 2012 with the Physiological Society. It aims to get sixth form students engaged in undertaking research into how the body works, alongside a mentor from a university.

  • Fascination of Plants Day

    The School of Biological Sciences ran the ‘Fascination of Plants Day’, a free educational event, at Beth Chatto Gardens in May 2014. Ulricke Bechtold, Tracy Lawson, Nicky Slee and the School’s research teams ran a range of hands on activities throughout the day.

  • Science Festival at Jimmy's Farm

    The School of Biological Sciences had a successful weekend at Jimmy's Farm Science and Nature Festival in March 2013. Corrine Whitby, Tracy Lawson and Ulricke Bechtold were members of the team showcasing a range of activities that occur at University of Essex. The event was run as part of the National Science and Engineering week.

  • University of Essex and Essex Wildlife Trust Ecology Days

    This event, held in September 2015, was organised by Essex Wildlife Trust and Nicky Slee from Biological Sciences and enabled post-16 students to get involved in a day sampling at Abbots Hall Farm salt marsh.

  • Big Bang at Essex

    Staff from the School of Biological Sciences contribute towards the Big Bang at Essex annual events. Over 500 people visited the University and had an exciting day finding out about the diversity of science.

  • Colchester Careers Convention

    Representatives from the School attended the Colchester Careers Convention in October 2015. This event gives students the opportunities to find out their choices at 14, 16 and beyond.

  • Wellcome Trust: I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!

    PhD student Sarah-Jane Walsh took part in a national science competition in June 2013. 'I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here' is a Wellcome Trust initiative that works with primary schools all over the country, allowing them to ask questions to a scientist and take part in online chat sessions.

  • AS Biology Conference

    A Biology conference for AS Biology students is held annually at the University. Staff from the School of Biological Sciences, including Nicky Slee, Ulricke Bechtold, Tracy Lawson, Selwa Alsam and Louise Beard have contributed to the conference, giving talks and running activity sessions.

Resources for women in STEM

There is a wide range of opportunities, resources and support networks available for women in science, both within and outside our University. Further information can be found below and on the Athena SWAN Moodle resources..

WISE membership

We have joined the WISE campaign to help us progress our gender equality work. Membership means we can raise the profile of our female STEM staff as WISE role models and link them to our community.

Career development

  • Training and funding opportunities

    There is a range of funding and training opportunities of particular relevance to Women in Biological Sciences. For information on these and other schemes visit the University's Athena SWAN page.

    The University’s Learning and Development provides training and development opportunities for staff at all stages of their careers. They offer workshops and short courses in leadership and management, bespoke programmes for academics, researchers and postgraduates as well as professional qualifications. Learning and Development also run the Springboard Programme, an award-winning development course for women.

    All courses can be booked via HR Organiser.

  • Mentoring

    Probationary Mentoring

    The School has a mentoring policy to support its new academic staff. A senior member of staff is assigned as a mentor to all new academic staff. For research active staff, one of the key roles of the mentor is to help to de-mystify the ‘rules of the game’ by providing advice on what is worth doing and when, where and how to network, how to develop a career plan, explaining promotion criteria and how to develop a profile within a discipline.

    This period of formal mentoring ends when the mentee achieves permanency. Further information about this policy can be found in the staff handbook (staff only).

    School Mentoring Scheme

    A School Mentoring Scheme has been established as a result of an action from the School’s Athena SWAN Bronze Department Award. This voluntary scheme is open to all academic/research staff and PhD students and aims to support individuals at all stages of their professional or personal development. Mentors will provide support, give advice and guidance on career/personal development and provide opportunities to reflect on progress. The scheme supports both traditional mentoring with senior staff as well as peer mentoring and can be either long-term or short-term to suit individual needs. Details of the scheme are outlined here. All documents are available on the School Mentoring Scheme Moodle which is found on the School’s Main Moodle page.

  • Annual Review process

    The School actively promotes academic and research staff applying for permanency and promotion.


    Workshop - Annual staffing review: preparing for permanency and promotion

    This workshop will help you to gain an insight into the criteria for permanency and promotion, and the various categories under which candidates are required to provide evidence of activities, responsibilities and achievements. It will also provide helpful guidance and information about the role, remit and procedures relating to the Academic Staffing Committee which oversees these important career processes. The workshop is run on a regular basis and can be booked via HR organiser.

  • Opportunities for undergraduates

    Placements and Study Abroad

    The School recognises the importance of studying and living abroad. As a Biological Sciences student, you have a range of fieldwork opportunities available to you and the Essex Abroad team can help you plan your time overseas. The School also offers opportunities to gain experience within industry on some of its undergraduate courses through industrial placements.

    Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP)

    If you're an Essex undergraduate, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) gives you the opportunity to get a bursary by assisting one of our academic researchers on a current research project. You'll learn first-hand how to carry out research and what being a researcher really means. Completing a UROP placement will help you in your final year dissertation or project, be a great addition to your CV and a valuable experience which will enhance your future career development. A UROP placement of at least 100 hours will count as 50 units towards the Big Essex award.

    Your supervisor will be able to write a reference for you detailing the research you've been involved in and skills you've gained.

Essex Women's Network

The University's Women's Network provides support, informal mentoring and networking opportunities to women of all career levels. The Essex Women’s Network is open to all staff who work at our University and also to PhD students.

Family friendly policies and occupational health

The School actively promotes a family friendly working environment for staff, implementing a range of family friendly policies to support working parents and parents to be:

Further information for pregnant staff and students and their managers can be found in Occupational Health.

Support for working parents

The University has recently created a ‘support for working parents’ package, which includes a Parents’ Support Network, Parents Mentoring Scheme and regular Parents-to-be Seminars. The School is supportive of staff with caring responsibilities and encourages working parents and parents to-be to take advantage of these useful resources.

Good quality childcare is a key concern for working parents. The University has an on-site nursery which offers exceptional day care to children from 3 months to 5 years. In addition, the Wivenhoe Park Holiday Club offers holiday childcare for primary school age children in its own dedicated space within the Day Nursery.

CHUMS (Children's Holidays at the University of Essex Multi-activity Sports) offers a holiday activity camp for children, aged from eight to fourteen, on-site at the University Sports Centre. The University operates the flexible benefits (.pdf) and childcare vouchers schemes to support working parents with the costs of childcare. Essex County Council provides further support for finding quality childcare in the Essex area.