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 Laura Southgate, Lecturer, Molecular and Clinical Sciences, talks about her ambitions, motivations and her research.

Dr Laura Southgate

calendar-icon 22 June 2018

When did you join St George’s?

"I started in August 2017 and prior to that I worked at King’s College and Queen Mary University of London. Having worked at Guy’s Hospital campus, St George’s appealed to me as I see great value in working in a hospital environment. You have direct access to the patients we are studying and see how things work in practice in a clinical setting."

What’s your role at St George’s?

"My area of expertise is genetics, specifically in rare disease genetics. My aim is to find the genes that cause rare genetic disorders, predominantly developmental or cardiovascular disorders. My PhD covered genetic disorders in families with close parental relatedness, where I did genome mapping to track the inheritance of a rare genetic variant in the family.

"I did my BSc in Leicester, where I worked alongside Professor Alec Jeffreys, who is renowned as the father of DNA fingerprinting. I completed my PhD with Professor Richard Trembath at King’s College London and he has been my mentor for many years."

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

"It’s a sense of making a difference to people’s lives for the better. I feel like I am doing something no one else is doing especially as some of the conditions I work on are so rare. In fact, some conditions are so rare that funding the research can be difficult. So, I get a lot of contact with patients with rare diseases and they always tell me how grateful they are for the work I am doing as so little is known about these disorders. It’s a big responsibility."

What advice would you give to others starting out on a career in research?

"Prior to starting here, I applied for a fellowship and was rejected. Sometimes you have to recognise that there are going to be times when you will have papers or grants rejected and take the feedback on constructively. I knew of someone who was so convinced of the value of their work that they submitted the same grant 12 times until it was accepted."

Why St George’s?

"Though I have only been here since the summer, the community feel is really high up the list. The Genetics Research Centre is a very close knit group, and in the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Institute, everyone seems keen to work together and help one another. The only negative I have is my commute!"

What are your career ambitions?

"I am always thinking about where my career is going to go. In the 18 years I have been working, genetics has evolved dramatically. I’ve come from pre-next generation sequencing to using some of the most high-tech equipment available in genomics. To maintain a career in scientific research you have to be open to adjusting to a new environment and new ways of thinking. I’m in a five-year post here and I am going to make the most of the time I have and enjoy it."

What are your interests outside of work?

"I am a classically trained musician, with Grade eight in piano, clarinet and violin. Whilst I don’t play as much as I used to, sitting down at the piano is the perfect way for me to forget the pressures of work at the end of a busy week."