Thinking of the first day you walked through the Merton Lodge arch, what was your first impression?
Smaller than I expected (but I couldn’t see the gardens), calm, beautifully proportioned and understated.
Do you have a particular memory that stands out from your time at Merton?
There are many, but one was a Gaudy where almost every biochemistry student from that year group came and a female student - one of the brightest I have ever taught - flew from the US to tell me how important I had been as a role model. I could have cried. Another was Warden’s Progress - I wish I had done it earlier in my time at Merton. It revealed a completely different aspect of the College, its history and relationship with this country.
Tell us something about yourself that we would not know.
I can (or could!) milk a cow and build a dry stone wall.
What tips would you give your younger self to prepare for the career you have achieved?
Taking time to think through a problem does not make you stupid! Like many, not only women, I realise I suffered from “imposter syndrome” for most of my life. I didn’t think I should be where I was and would one day be found out. This was made worse by being intimidated by people who answered questions immediately and with absolute confidence. I assumed they were much brighter than me as they had an immediate answer/opinion. It took years to realise they were often spouting rubbish and that allowing people to slowly think through a problem often came to a better, more inclusive answer. I fear some aspects of the tutorial system can nurture a competitive approach to debate, and I tried to emphasise a slower, open approach to discussion in tutorials.
Describe Merton in three words.
Supportive; scholarly; adaptable (but occasionally smug).