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5 minutes with Aileen King

Dr Aileen King is a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology in the School of Life Course Sciences, and was recently appointed as the School Academic Lead, Development, Diversity & Inclusion (DDI). We took 5 minutes with Aileen to learn more about her career and life outside of work.


Briefly, tell us about your career up to this point. Is this something you always thought you would do?

I kind of fell into the diabetes field by accident. I studied biomedical sciences at the University of Ulster and we had to do a placement between 2nd year and final year. There was an opportunity in Sweden, which I weirdly thought sounded “exotic”. I chose that placement based on a desire to spend a year in Sweden and it turned out to be in the field of diabetes research. I’ve remained in that field ever since; I returned to the same lab in Sweden (Uppsala University) to do my PhD, after which I spent three years as a postdoc in Boston at the Joslin Diabetes Center. I came to King’s as an RCUK Fellow back in 2006.

Can you tell us more about your new appointment as School DDI Lead?

I applied to be the School DDI lead as I became aware when I was involved with the Athena SWAN application how lucky I have been to be well supported and encouraged throughout my career. I realised that not everyone gets the support I benefitted from and I am keen to be part of the solution.

I really hate inequality and if we can support individuals to reach their full potential then everyone benefits. The bigger question is of course how to achieve that! We will need to work with Faculty initiatives to address some of the wider issues. However, at a School level I think we can all work together to create an environment where everyone feels accepted and supported.

Do you have any current projects as School DDI Lead that you would like to tell us about?

We are still in early stages and one of the first jobs of the committee is to try and identify where our strengths and weaknesses lie within the School with regard to diversity, development and inclusion and make some action plans based on this.

Is there any particular areas that you are passionate about that you are hoping to bring to the role?

One action I would like to implement in the near future is to ensure that really good inductions are reproducibly held across the School, so that people starting in the School have a clear idea of what resources are available and where to get help if things are not going well. We will also ensure that this information is easily accessible to all members of the School. For example, I feel many people are unaware of the availability of confidential advisors within the Faculty, which can be contacted if a staff member or PhD student is suffering from bullying or harassment. Some initiatives at the Faculty level include addressing issues of racial inequality and promoting open conversations around these issues, which of course we will embrace. There are also plans at Faculty level to improve support to lecturers on probation and at a School level we should make sure that any recommendations are implemented.

How has your typical working day changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I’m embracing the increased flexibility of working from home. I’m a morning person and previously I was using my most productive time of the day getting ready for work and commuting. I now start working as soon as I get up around 6.30am and do about 2 hours before having a break for breakfast/exercise/showering. There’s been some long hours as we frantically try to arrange online teaching, but I find taking this more flexible approach has made it more bearable. However, I do miss seeing my colleagues!



Favourite way to start the day?

Cup of tea


Who inspires you most and why?

I was really inspired by the head of the first lab I was in: Claes Hellerström. He was so knowledgeable yet so humble. He had a way of making everyone feel included and important in the running of the lab, even a 19-year-old undergraduate student. No matter how busy he was, he always made you feel like he had plenty of time to answer your questions. He was a great scientist but also an amazing mentor.


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Admit to others and yourself that you’re gay. Fewer people will care than you think and your parents will NOT disown you…


What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?

In a professional setting: got a paper accepted.

In a personal setting: went kitesurfing and being on the waves at sunset was just magical.

In this story

Aileen King

Aileen King

Reader in Integrative Physiology & Diabetes

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