Professor Alison Metcalfe
Professor of Health Care Research
Dean for Research
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
Already a registered nurse I undertook a joint honours degree in Biology and Psychology, and discovered a fascination for science, its ingenuity and its inventiveness and the rigorous testing of the theories generated. But I often wondered about the implications of the work in the laboratory for the patients I nursed at evenings and weekends whilst I studied. So having undertaken a PhD and some post doctoral work in immunology and biomolecular science and since commenced a career in research management within the NHS, I returned to University to undertake postdoctoral work on risk communication.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
As my career to date shows my interests are very eclectic covering genetic science, risk communication and family psychology. I believe it is essential that there is greater interdisciplinary working to answer the most pressing issues in society. My interest in science and psychology and recognising the impact on families of genetic disease from a nursing perspective meant that I could draw on all my interests and skills.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Hearing first hand from families about how they have listened or read your research and acted upon it, and the impact it has on their lives, making families closer and more interconnected to deal with genetic conditions, which can be physically and psychologically taxing on parents and their children.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
There is not one person, I watch and observe others and learn from them. Sometimes I will ask a senior colleague to mentor me if I am dealing with a new or unique situation. But learning from how well others do (or do not) handle situations is really useful, especially if you can speak to them and ask their reasoning too.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Senior colleagues, who have facilitated my career development, listened to my ideas and assisted me in shaping them into a coherent research programme. The support of my partner and family throughout my career has enabled me to take up opportunities as they arise.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
At King’s there is such a wide breadth of individuals with knowledge and skills in many inter-related specialties, which means there are great opportunities for interdisciplinary working. It’s an exciting place to work with so much happening – it great to be able to work with students and colleagues and show them the enormous possibilities that exist here.
Hopefully being able to now be in a position to support others in developing their research careers from undergraduates to colleagues working on research programmes that make such a difference to people’s lives.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Strict diary management and careful planning. Ensure I always look at my own research at least once a day even if only for 10 minutes, which makes it easier to continue when I have more time available.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
I try to play some sport, at least in the summer when the weather is warmer. I ensure I meet up with family and friends each weekend too. There is always one day in the weekend when I do not look at work or emails. Also I put a holiday into my diary every 9-10 weeks to ensure I wind down and can look at things from a fresh perspective.
And the best thing to switch off - I go long walks with my dogs ‘Milo’ and ‘Dilly’.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
It’s important to work hard but also to play and relax because that will always give you a new perspective on any issues you are facing at work. You have to be bold and be willing to be different and most of all believe in yourself and not be afraid to state your view.