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Women scientists in ECACC

Gender equality in science is essential for the delivery of internationally agreed development goals, yet UNESCO data suggests only 30 per cent of female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Despite several initiatives in recent years, women and girls continue struggle to be fully included in science.

To support the empowerment of women and girls in science, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/70/212; declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGS).

ECACC has always had a strong female representation in its scientific and technical staff. We spoke to two ECACC scientists; Debbie Scammell, Specialist Cell Culture Scientist and Simone Lilley, New Accessions - Lead Scientist , about thier roles, how they came to choose a scientific career and which strong female scientists they have taken inspiration from.


Debbie Scammell, Specialist Cell Culture Scientist


Current Role: I am a Specialist Cell-Culture Scientist within ECACC, working on new accessions.

Why Science: My father studied chemistry at university and my mother was a science teacher, so I’ve always grown up in this world.

Why ECACC, Culture Collections and UKHSA are good places to work: Because you have lots of great people to bounce ideas off, and if you have any problems/issues there is always someone here to help you. Generally, the community within Culture Collections and  UKHSA is very welcoming.

Challenges: During the pandemic, there were problems with accessing reagents and  resources generally. Time pressures can also be challenging when dealing with new products, writing a certificates of analysis, and making sure that everything is done in a timely manner.

Inspiration: I feel inspired by women in science in the 19th century, such as Marie Curie, who broke barriers and proved their peers wrong.


Debbie will be presenting a poster 'Characterisation of the monocyte-like THP1 cell line response to hypoxia pathway activation in vitro' at ELRIG Drug Discovery 2023 in Liverpool on the 18th and 19th of October 2023. We will be publishing Debbie's poster which has been produced in collaboration with the University of Southampton, on our website after the event.


Simone Lilley, New Accessions - Lead Scientist 


Current role: New Accessions – Lead Scientist

Why Science: I was fairly average across the board at school, no one subject stood out in terms of a front runner for grades. However, what did stand out was my fascination for science and in particular Biology. Living things intrigued me and I developed a passion for cell biology during my A Levels. This was extended further during my degree which I carried out at the University of Huddersfield.

Why ECACC, Culture Collections and UKHSA are good places to work: UKHSA offer great flexible working to enable me to work around having a family. I am able to work from home one day a week allowing me to spend that extra time with my two young sons. This would not be possible in other establishments.

Challenges: All jobs come with challenges and ECACC is no different. Recruiting people can be challenging which has an impact on the team. I am currently covering another role until it can be filled. So, if your female (or male) and looking for a role in science, then I would seriously consider coming to work for the Culture Collections team!

Inspiration: Rosalind Franklin – for her determination to work through an illness that ultimately cost her, her life (she died of bronchopneumonia, secondary carcinomatosis, and ovarian cancer). And of course, for her excellent work in X-ray crystallography which lead to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Her work in this field made this discovery possible.



December 2023