Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Real Deal: Suzi Gage, Epidemiologist

Here at High Heels in the Lab we know lots of physicists, so please welcome our first non-physicist of the ‘Real Deal’ series (there are other non-physicists lined up too, we promise). Suzi Gage is an epidemiologist (yes, we had to look that up too, don’t worry), She’s also an avid foodie, runner, musician and blogger. Let’s find out more about her…

What do you do and give 3 words that describe how you got there?

I'm a PhD epidemiologist at the University of Bristol. I use a large dataset of Bristolian children who have been followed since birth to look at relationships between cannabis and tobacco use, and psychosis and depression.

How did I get here: passion, hard work, luck (maybe not in that order)

What career did you think you would have when you were younger?

I really wanted to be an astronaut, but given I was once seasick on a pedalo, this was unlikely to be a goer. I never considered science as a career, but I was always interested in how things worked. I wrote to Jim'll Fix It because I wanted to learn how neon lights worked, but he didn't write back (maybe a lucky escape looking back). As a teenager I wanted to be a musician, and I have played in bands since I was a teenager (still do), so I sort-of managed that. I also wanted to be a journalist, and so my science blog helped me to fulfil that dream too. Apart from the astronaut thing I've done quite well.

What is it that makes you want to come to work each day?

I love the work I do, I have great colleagues, inspirational supervisors and fantastic mentors. Some days I do nothing but clean data, but I still know I'm lucky to love my work, and having done some years in the wilderness where I had temping jobs, I value that a lot.

What is the one thing you'd love to achieve in your research?

Only one thing?! I'd like to be proud of all the work I do. Of course, I'd love to discover some finding that can really help people, but I know research well enough to know this is as much luck as hard work.

What is the best/worst thing about your job?

The best thing is the flexibility, and the chance to go to conferences all over the world, and my colleagues, and...oh there are lots of best things, it seems.

The worst thing are the occasional monotonous days where a piece of code just won't work, or when you leave something running overnight to discover it crashed and you have to start again. Or that there just aren't enough hours in the day to do all the stuff I want to do.

What do you enjoy other than science?

Playing and listening to music, writing about science (does that count?), running and swimming, watching films, cooking (and eating), crafty stuff...

What would be your ideal holiday?

Somewhere near water I can swim in, where I can read a book, go for nice runs, and eat good food. Cornwall is pretty good for those things. Though I recently went to California and completely fell in love with the State, and could tick off all those things there too.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration (science or otherwise?)

I'm very much inspired by Jean Golding, the woman who set up the Children of the 90s birth cohort that I conduct my research on. I've been really lucky and had some excellent female role models throughout my undergrad, research assistant and PhD time. Gabriella Vigliocco, Celia Heyes, Debbie Lawlor and Angela Attwood particularly stand out. Marcus Munafo too (but he's not a lady, obviously).

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?


Be nice, be helpful, be grateful. Have fun (you will).

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