Dr Claire Sharpe
Claire Sharpe is a Reader and Honorary Consultant in Renal Medicine at King’s College London/King’s College Hospital. She graduated in Medicine from University College London and after specializing in Renal Medicine commenced research in renal fibrosis at King’s College London under Professor Bruce Hendry.
Claire received a Kidney Research UK Clinical Training Fellowship in 1999 and was awarded her PhD in 2001. In 2002 she successfully obtained a Department of Health 5-year Clinician Scientist Award and completed her specialist clinical training in 2004. In 2009 she was awarded a NHS/HEFCE Clinical Senior Lectureship and currently works as a clinical academic devoting 50% of her time to research and 50% to clinical activity. She was promoted to Reader in 2016.
Claire's main research interest is in the study of the role of Ras monomeric GTPase-dependent cell signaling pathways in renal fibrosis with a view to discovering new therapeutic targets. Her clinical research interests are in the clinical manifestations and pathophysiology of sickle cell nephropathy and in the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease.
When did you become interested in Science?
I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. As a child I used to enjoy making colourful concoctions with my chemistry set, putting the cork in the top of the test tube then heating it up to see what would happen!
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
As a clinician my main drive is to work in a field that will eventually help to improve the lives of our patients. My main area of interest is the pathogenesis of renal fibrosis, which is the underlying mechanism that causes kidneys to fail. There is currently no antifibrotic drug available and I believe that if we can crack this, chronic kidney disease will become a treatable condition with fewer patients becoming dialysis-dependent.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I have been very lucky in my career to have obtained independent support through three personal awards. These have allowed me a certain degree of autonomy and have given me the opportunity to combine basic science research with clinical practice. I have also managed to fit in 3 children, which has been hard work but enormously rewarding.
Do you have scientific role models? What do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
My first scientific role model was Rosalind Franklin. She was brilliant and determined; battled against the odds and died tragically at a young age, only receiving her due recognition after death. She appealed strongly to my adolescent feelings of injustice. My role models now still tend to be people who succeed against the odds.
What are your views on mentorship? Are there colleagues who have helped you, and what types of advice has been most useful?
I am a great believer in the benefits of mentoring. I think it can take many forms and different styles are helpful at different times in one’s life. I have been very fortunate to have had inspiring mentors during my career and continue to seek mentorship when necessary and offer mentoring whenever I am asked. I have found that the best advice has been to redirect me when I have been going down the wrong path, however difficult it may be to hear.
What do you most value in your colleagues, both at King’s and beyond?
My colleagues have been very supportive of me over the years, allowing me to build my dual career giving me the flexibility I need when family has to come first. I also very much enjoy opportunities to discuss problems and bounce ideas off of people. Whole research projects have been born out of short but inspiring conversations.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Sometimes I feel like I have my cake and I eat it. I get to do all the things I enjoy and I know I am extremely lucky to be in this position. I particularly enjoy meeting new and enthusiastic scientists or junior doctors and giving them the opportunity to experience research and to “catch the bug.”
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
With difficulty. This is the hardest bit of the job and I am aware that I sometimes get the balance wrong. Having a young family has taught me the importance of planning and organization. When I was younger I used to troubleshoot and deal with things at the last minute, thriving on the adrenaline. I realize now that that can be a recipe for disaster.
Do you find an academic career compatible with a fulfilling life away from the workplace?
Although I’m busy I am getting to do all the things I enjoy at work which also allows me to enjoy my family life too. I have been extremely fortunate to have a supportive husband and very stable childcare which certainly helps. There is no time left for hobbies though!
If there was one thing in your career you could change, what would it be?
I am very happy with my career and there is little I would do to change it. It would certainly be easier if I didn’t have to spend so much time trying to get funding and had a little more time to focus on the research itself but I suppose everyone is in that boat.