Professor Cathy Shanahan
Professor of Cell Signalling
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I was always interested in science and when I went to University I combined Genetics with Zoology. After my PhD the molecular biology era had just emerged and so I moved into molecular and cellular biology. I wanted to move from Australia to the UK to gain experience and just by chance I took a post-doctoral position advertised in Nature to work on vascular smooth muscle cells and that is how I moved into the Cardiovascular field
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My research interests are in the processes that regulate vascular calcification or ‘hardening of the arteries’ and also vascular ageing. I was drawn to this area by my own research that showed vascular smooth muscle cells could act like bone and orchestrate mineralization of the vessel wall which seemed such a strange idea and worth investigating. My interestes in ageing stemmed from studies on children with a very rare genetic disorder of premature ageing called progeria who die of old age when they are in their early teens usually because they have ‘old’ and calcified blood vessels. These children have given us lots of clues as to how blood vessels age in the general
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Becoming a Professor was very rewarding as it finally meant I must have achieved something in my time as a scientist!
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
Not really. I have met very few women in my career who have been peers or advisors. I had an excellent mentor as a post-doc who put me on the career path by encouraging me to write a fellowship – he was very successful but also very supportive and helpful which is how I would also like to think I run my laboratory.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
I enjoy helping younger scientists to achieve their goals and have set up a mentoring scheme for early career researchers in the Division to enable them to get some extra help and advice along the way
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Its very hard – I just try to do the boring jobs quickly and when I am feeling tired so not so creative!
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
I don’t differentiate between these two things in a clear cut way – I find you need to be relatively satisifed with both to feel balanced and happy
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Don’t listen to other people about how things should be or be done - just go for what you think will make you feel most satisfied. There is no plan or pattern but your own