International Women’s Day 2022 series #BreaktheBias

Interview with Sarah Cartmell 

Professor of Bioengineering and Head of the Department of Materials

Sarah is Head of the Department of Materials at the University of Manchester, which is home to nearly 2,000 students and staff.

She was the UK Biomedical Materials champion for The Royce Institute of a £235million UK government investment for advanced materials since April 2017 until April 2021. In this activity she has created an interaction of a 200 strong stakeholder working group of UK academics and industry.

Sarah has been awarded 51 grants, >£12.7million of grants as lead PI and >£22million as both PI and CI from 22 different competitive sources ranging from government, charity and industry. She is elected President of the UK Tissue and Cell Engineering Society and an outreach committee member of The Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society; EU chapter.

She is also a 5th Dan in Shotokan Karate and was on the England women’s kumite squad.

You can read more about Sarah’s work here.

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YOUR WORK AS A PIONEER IN BIOENGINEERING AIMS TO DISCOVER THE NEXT BREAKTHROUGH IN BIOMATERIALS. WHAT MAKES THIS SO IMPORTANT?

Research into biomedical engineering and materials can change the way and speed in which our bodies heal, to improve quality of life in the long term. Through research and development of Tissue Engineering, we can improve, restore, or even replace biological tissues. It’s more important now than ever to cater to an ageing population and optimising new materials can achieve this!

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WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO INCREASE DIVERSITY IN YOUR INDUSTRY?

It’s so important to have diversity within a lab amongst researchers and scientists, not only cultural background, gender, and race but also through life experiences and education.

Our work requires us to obtain information to create medicine that will cater to a diverse range of people, so we must develop technologies with this in mind.

One example is 3D printing hip joints – because of gender and race differences, our bodies have different requirements, so replacing a hip joint shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach. We work to ensure medicine is personalised.

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WHAT BARRIERS HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY?

There is an ever-increasing number of women that are leading the way in science and engineering. I would say the pressure to represent the amazing things women are doing can sometimes be overwhelming as you don’t want to disappoint. I am not sure that men experience this in the same way.

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THE THEME FOR THIS YEAR'S IWD IS #BREAKTHEBIAS - WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO FOLLOW IN YOUR PATH?

Be confident and stay true to what you believe in. Don’t let imposters syndrome get in the way of your passions!

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WHO IS YOUR INSPIRATION?

I have several unofficial mentors that have always been there to support me. When you want to lead a paradigm shift in the world of science, it’s a privilege to work with people that have paved the way before you.

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DOES YOUR WORK CONTRIBUTE TO A HEALTHIER WORLD FOR WOMEN IN PARTICULAR?

The work we do contributes to the personalised and advanced care to cater to female physiology, to provide a faster and better way of healing.

My work also involves training the next generation of leading women in the industry!

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WHAT HAS BEEN A CAREER HIGHLIGHT FOR YOU?

Becoming a professor is a highlight every day. I love coaching and working with Ph.D. students to nurture the next generation of professors.

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FINALLY, HOW DO YOU THINK GREATER MANCHESTER HAS HELPED YOU SUCCEED?

Without a doubt, Greater Manchester has contributed to my achievements. Having access to world leading institutes such as The Henry Royce Institute is fantastic.

The amazing talent the city attracts is also inspiring to see and to work with.

Additionally, Greater Manchester has such a diverse population that supports the clinical trials - enabling us to take research directly from bench to bedside successfully.


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