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Life Sciences & Medicine

Professor Mary Seller

Mary Seller

Job title

Professor of Developmental Genetics

Sub Vice Dean of Graduate Research Students


Medical Education

Date started at King’s


Challenges and achievements

When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?

Serendipity took me into Medical Genetics.  I specialised in Marine Biology in my first degree, but when, in 1961, it came to getting a job, all the exciting ones went to men, and I was offered the prospect of counting plankton at Lowestoft.  So I simply took the first ‘other’ job that came along, which was at Guy’s, in the primordial genetics department (even genetics was not a ‘real’ subject then,) and I was able to study for a PhD, and I have never left! 

What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area? 

I have been interested in congenital malformations, how they occur during embryological development, and in finding ways in preventing them from happening.

Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding. 

Working with the late Professor Dick Smithells and his colleagues of Leeds University on the  discovery  that periconceptional folic acid supplementation prevents neural tube defects in humans.  This is now incorporated into the pre-pregnancy care of women

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?

No-one in particular – simply any of my many colleagues who work so hard, and are so enthusiastic about their research, and who create a stimulating environment in which to work.

What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s? 

King’s is a generous, lively, and stimulating environment, with a plethora of exciting work going on, and full of lovely people.  That is all one needs to be happy.

What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?

Never say ‘no’ to any opportunity or possibility or challenge unless you have a really watertight case for refusal.  You never know where it may lead, and it will almost certainly bring you something really positive, that you would miss if you had not had it.


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