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Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellow: Eva Hoffmann


Dr Eva Hoffmann

Current job

MRC Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellow at the MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre within the University of Sussex

Key quote

“I’m really passionate about my research. Some days I wake up and I can’t believe I’m paid to do this.”

Length of career

16 years

Career in brief

After my undergraduate degree in biological sciences, I stayed at the University of Oxford to do a PhD in classical yeast genetics. I did my first postdoc at the University of Leicester studying meiotic recombination, followed by an EMBO Fellowship at Yale University assessing chromosome structure in meiosis. I started my own lab at the MRC Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex just three years after finishing my PhD. This was with the help of a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship; these allow flexibility to balance research with family responsibilities.

I stayed at the centre when I got my MRC Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellowship in 2010. My research focuses on understanding how our genetic material is transmitted accurately to the next generation, in particular to identify and understand the environmental and genetic factors involved in chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. The fellowship has allowed me to move more into the sphere of clinical research by setting up collaborations.

I spend my days

The research is exciting and varied. I spend a quarter of my time in the lab and another quarter discussing project development. The rest is spent making sure we adhere to regulations for using human eggs and embryos and also animals in research, and keeping up with the literature. We work across many different fields, from genetics to embryology and IVF. I have to travel fairly often, to work with eggs and embryos that can’t be moved. I also visit collaborators to make sure that our protocols are aligned and we adhere to ethical and legal regulations. I have a good work-life balance; I actively manage it and I think that's the key.

Career highlights

Combining fundamental lab research with clinical research is a tremendous privilege — I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to move into a different type of research that the fellowship has brought. Another highlight is interacting with so many fantastic scientists at various stages. When you look at all of the great scientists out there, they're all passionate about their research and I think it's incredibly important to have that passion.

Skills I need to do my job

Besides scientific excellence, collaborations rely on human interactions so ‘soft’ skills such as communication are incredibly important to facilitate fruitful interdisciplinary research.

Biggest challenges

Actively managing my work-life balance to allow us to conduct excellent science. The transition between fellowships was particularly challenging as it coincided with the arrival of my first child.

What I’d do differently

There’s a long list, but I learn from mistakes and, overall, I have no regrets.

I am inspired by

I have two mentors here: Professors Tony Carr and Alan Lehmann. I'm very well supported, they provide me with good advice on which projects would work, how to monitor and manage projects … Basically, they help me deliver good science.

Words of wisdom

There is not a single path to a career in biomedical research; however, scientific excellence and integrity as well as an ability to work with others are crucial for answering big questions.

Next steps

I am fortunate to have been offered permanent positions at several institutions. This will allow me to consolidate our combination of basic and translational science, while taking on more responsibilities towards training the next generation of scientists.

Further information

Working life: Eva Hoffmann

Correct as of: March 2015