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Jennifer Deegan

Jennifer Deegan

Jennifer DeeganBefore parenthood, I was a plant scientist at the Universities of Glasgow, and Cambridge, the John Innes Centre, and EMBL-EBI, for about 17 years. After I gave up paid work to care for my son, I carried on my plant science research as an independent, self-funded researcher, working alone at home.

Working alone like this was initially quite an isolating experience, and I missed my old friends from my community. I also struggled scientifically, as I had lost online access to the literature.

I was very lucky, however, to be encouraged in my research by my previous supervisor at the University of Cambridge. I do not have enough free time to enter paid employment, so he took me back into his group as an unpaid visitor. This is a great role for me in many ways. My supervisor gives me little bits of advice about how to move forward in my research, and the role gives me access to my old community, and old friends. As an unpaid role, it also gives me complete freedom to be always available for my family, which has to be my first priority.

I come from a family of botanists, and it is very clear to me just how big a difference my supervisor's inclusive attitude has made for me. My grandmother and mother before me also carried out independent plant science research from home. However, I am the first woman in the family still to be formally included in the scientific community after the arrival of the next generation.

As a consequence of this inclusion, I have been able to publish my work (Pteridologist 6.4.2017), rather than simply sharing it with my children. I have also been given the opportunity to apply for an equipment grant. This would not have been possible for the previous women in my family.

This change makes me feel very hopeful for the future of my scientific work. I would like to make the most of my education and experience, by continuing to contribute to the scientific record. The pursuit of equal opportunities by the University gives me hope that I may be able to do this, while still prioritising the needs of my family.