An interview with Professor Anna Gloyn
Professor Anna Gloyn is a renowned diabetes researcher. Her research is focused on uncovering the genetics behind Type 2 diabetes, to learn more about how and why it develops.
Anna’s work has been recognised around the world, and she is a recipient of a European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Rising Star Award (2005), the RD Lawrence Named Lecturer (Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference 2009), the GB Morgagni Silver Medal (2014) and the EASD Minkowski Prize (2014). She’s also a parent.
We often hear researchers talk about their work but we never get to know the person behind it. We fundraise for and support world-class science, but we want to give you an insight into the ups and downs of life as a researcher.
Are you able to summarise your research work?
I use the information we discover from the genetic basis for Type 2 diabetes to understand what goes wrong with the machinery in the pancreas that releases insulin. This not only helps us understand how the machinery works but it can also provide us with insights into how we might be able to get it to work again.
What are you hoping to find from your research?
I would like to be able to identify new proteins that can then be targeted therapeutically to modify people’s risk of developing diabetes and to modify how their disease progresses. I am also hoping to be able to find ways that we can use existing treatments more effectively by putting people into different groups based on the type of diabetes they have.
What are the best and worst parts of being a researcher?
The best parts are discovering something new and exciting that no one else has thought of or seen before but the worst parts are coping with rejection. For example, when after years of hard graft in the lab and then at the computer writing up our findings we finally submit a manuscript for publication and the journal rejects it, it’s so disheartening. It’s especially hard for students, where its often their first paper and they have been living and breathing the work for years. Of course, it all works out in the end and the scientific highs certainly make up for those lows!
What impact has Diabetes UK had on your research and career?
Diabetes UK has had an enormous impact of my career because without the support early on, in the form of the small grant and particularly my RD Lawrence Fellowship, I wouldn’t have been able to have established an independent lab and research team. And, without that basis it would have been impossible to have continued to sustain a group to do my research. Diabetes UK have also provided me with a national research family, many of the clinicians and scientists I first met 20 years ago as a student at the annual meeting are still active and I enjoy meeting up with them at conferences and committee meetings.
How do you juggle your family life and your research?
It’s not easy! It’s particularly tricky as my husband is also an academic so we have to coordinate diaries very carefully. Enormous flexibility and good organisation are essential. I do have fairly blurred boundaries between my work and family life which if not abused help me manage both. For example, my daughter often travels with me for work and we will combine family time with an international conference.
It’s International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. What advice do you have for aspiring female scientists and researchers?
Don’t underestimate what you have the capability of achieving. Some of the most important scientific discoveries have been made by women, the field needs you! Never underestimate what you have the capability of achieving and remember you are most likely your own worst critic. Be visible and take opportunities, it’s easier to shine if people have the chance to see what you have and can achieve.