Professor Jo Spencer
Professor of Immunobiology
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I studied Genetics and Cell Biology as an undergraduate. I didn’t consider any other career once I realised that researching to find out more was an option.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My interest in intestinal immunity stemmed from the PhD programme that I was accepted on. I can’t claim to have known enough to make an informed choice at the time, but the questions I was presented with then still occupy my mind now. After my PhD I became intrigued by the possibility of studying human tissues and enjoyed the challenge of figuring out ways of doing this.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
When a Senior Lecturer in Histopathology I was part of the small team that found the association between infection of the stomach with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and development gastric lymphoma. We found that the tumour cells in many cases were dependent on the bugs, and that by eradicating the infection patients could be cured of their tumours. Real translation research!
The biggest triumphs though are often the small things – the predictions that turn out to be correct.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
My role models are the individuals who ‘think’ their work through their lives. The people who have ideas ‘as they go along’ and share them with excitement. The first such individual I met was my mentor as a post-doc Professor Peter Isaacson, a truly inspirational man.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Compartmentalisation of time is very important. Make sure there is time for the rewarding parts academia.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Have faith in your ideas and congratulate yourself when you achieve. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Academia, as life, is not the same for everyone in terms of opportunities or luck.
I was once told by one of the first female Professors in the UK to ‘…keep going and try to publish the best papers you can. If you do this, in the end, you can’t be ignored.’ It’s not as tough for us as it was for her, but her advice probably remains sound.