Dr Kim Jonas, Lecturer in Reproductive Physiology, talks about her ambitions and research in Early Career Researchers - a series of interviews that lift the lid on the Early Career Researcher community at St George’s, University of London.

Dr Kim Jonas

calendar-icon 12 June 2018

Congratulations on being awarded the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council New Investigator Grant for your research on, ‘Decoding the role of follicle stimulating hormone in ovarian ageing’. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

“Using the mouse as a model organism, we will investigate the interplay between the pituitary and ovary throughout ovarian lifespan, to determine its role in ovarian ageing. The award is for just under £500k and I can’t wait to get started this autumn.”

Did you always want to work in scientific research?

“I started out studying biochemistry with a sandwich year which I spent at Pfizer, the biopharmaceutical giant, working on next generation antibiotic production. This experience cemented my love for research and led to a change in my career path as prior to that, I’d been thinking of becoming a secondary school science teacher.

What did you study for your PhD?

“I wanted to specialise in endocrinology, more specifically reproductive endocrinology. I managed to find a PhD at University College London that encompassed everything on my wish list, where I looked at cellular control of cortisol metabolism in the human ovary.

“After my PhD, I started looking for postdoctoral researcher positions and I couldn’t find many in the UK that were appealing and I had no desire to move abroad. I took up a position as an account manager for a medical communications agency in the interim but I knew it wasn’t for me.

“Luckily, I knew someone who had just started his lab and was looking for a postdoctoral researcher, so I took up a position there studying the novel signalling pathway activation of pituitary guanylyl cyclase receptors.”

Where did you go to next?

“A job came up at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London and I was keen to get back to studying the ovary so I went for it.

“It was there I worked for Prof Huhtaniemi, who had shaped the field of Gonadotrophin Hormone research. He had been looking for someone with my molecular and physiological understanding of the ovary so I had a very happy six years working there. That experience really spring boarded me into my current research area.”

You’ve been at St George’s for three years. What are your reflections?

“I found out about the role here at St George’s via a colleague. Networking has played an important role in terms of the opportunities I’ve been offered in my career so I would say that those looking to pursue a career in research should spend time meeting those in their specialist area.

“The real asset of St George’s is its people, though I know this might sound cliché. I find everyone to be friendly and supportive and it has a collegiate feel. I eat lunch with lecturers from different institutes and I don’t know of many others who do that in other universities.

What are your ambitions?

“I love teaching and research, so excelling at both of these things. I’d like to be the best educator I can be, and research-wise to make my own niche and pathway in reproductive physiology”

What would you say to inspire young people to consider scientific research as a career path?

“The best advice I could give is to do work experience to get a taste of what it might be like. St George’s widening participation scheme is great because it offers school children hands on experience and they can find out how exciting being in a lab can be.

“For students doing Biomedical Science degrees, I would say take a sandwich year. Doing that was so informative for me in making decisions about my career and getting out into industry gives you a totally different view on what your options might be.”

What do you do outside of work?

“My family are my biggest hobbies. I have a three-and-a-half year old son who we love to explore the great outdoors with, so I spend a lot of time in beaches, parks and farms. I also love to cook and try new restaurants.”