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Pathways to FoDOCS

King's is holding the first Women in STEMM Season - a month-long celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. It takes place between the the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February and International Women’s Day on 8 March. Find out about some of the activities the students and staff in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences are up to during the Women in STEMM Season.

Pathways to FoDOCS

For most of us, careers are likely to be the sum of multiple facets of our lives which need to be prioritised or considered – where to live, work life balance, caring responsibilities, as well as what opportunities are available at a given time.

For International Women’s Day 2023, a cross-section of women from our faculty shared the pathway they took (and are still taking) in their career and study.
These stories cover a range of career pathways all the way from undergraduate study to Emeritus professorships, from working in labs as a technician, to delivering clinical teaching to students. From balancing the demands of postgraduate life as well as a CEO of a refugee charity, to tracing the path to become Dean of Research, each story is unique, taking twists and turns along the way.
At the same time, they all share common themes and interlacing experiences, and we hope you will be able to draw insight from them, regardless of where you are in your own pathway.

Find out more about their pathways here:


Pathways to FoDOCS - Emeritus Professor Margaret Cox


1.       Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?

I began my ‘higher’ education at the School of Modern Languages, Regent Street Polytechnic in London with the aim of becoming an air stewardess, studying French, German, Italian and Spanish; and Russian in the evenings. However, after fracturing my neck practising Judo with physics undergraduate students, I ended up in hospital passing the time reading my first book on “Electricity, Magnetism and Atomic Physics” (Fewkes & Yarwood) which made me decide to switch to Physics. Four years later, thanks to John Yarwood, Head of the Physics department at the Poly, I passed the required A-levels and then obtained a 2(ii) BSc Experimental Physics degree. I then managed to get accepted by University College London to do a PhD in experimental atomic physics (80 PhD physics students: 2 females!), supervised by Dr. Doug Heddle with a grant from the Royal Society.

During my Atomic Physics PhD research at UCL into the absorption of resonance radiation in Helium, I married my husband Jack Cox (also from the Poly) and fellow PhD Physics student. Jack’s subsequent post-doc position at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre took us to California where we wrote up our PhD theses and spent four years and had our two sons.

Returning to the UK in 1969, I met Professor Lewis Elton at the University of Surrey, where my husband had a one-year physics post, who offered me a part-time job developing computer programs to teach Quantum Mechanics to Physics students. Never having written a computer program it was ‘learning on the job’ producing computer simulations on quantum mechanics for a Hewlett Desk Calculator and Plotter (machine code programming), an oscilloscope (inputting electrical signals) and a mainframe in Fortran, published in the American Journal of Physics.

This led to a research officer post at Surrey for the Governments’ national NDPCAL Programme and subsequently becoming the first Coordinator for Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) and an Educational Computing Lecturer pioneering CAL across the university. During this time, for 2 years, I job shared and baby shared with my friend Gill Waterworth when I had my daughter, Kate. Then, in 1981, in response to an advert for The Director of the Computers in the Curriculum (CIC) Project based in the then Centre for Science and Mathematics Education at Chelsea College London I applied and was appointed director in January 1982.

This role involved being PI to the largest CIC project in the world funded at £0.3 million per year for 10 years. During those years we produced over 250 CAL teaching packages for primary and secondary education and brought in over £3.5m to King’s for R&D in IT in Education. I also met with Drs. Peta Smith and Andrew Gould from the Dental Institute at a King’s seminar who wanted to collaborate to develop a Teaching simulation for students to learn about the Diagnostic Techniques in the Planning of Dental Treatment. This led to my being asked by Professor Ken Eaton, at the time the Dental Officer in the Ministry of Health, to evaluate and report on the use of dental simulations by practising dentists across England. I then met Professor Pat Reynolds who was also developing teaching materials using IT, resulting in many collaborative King’s projects funded for enhancing teaching and learning in Dental Education and 23 publications and my appointment to Professor in 1998 and being awarded an OBE in 2001.

In 2004 after becoming Emerita Professor I was invited to join The Dental Institute (now FoDOCS) by Professor Sir Nairn Wilson to help set up the Research Centre for Dental Education. Through encouragement and support from many in FoDOCS including Profs Wilson, Woolford, Newton, Quinn and Escudier we managed to obtain two large grants in 2006: for the hapTEL project (ESRC-EPSRC: £1.5m; 2006-2012) and the IviDent Project (Directed by Pat Reynolds: UK Government: £2.4m) expanding the CDE to over 30 colleagues and PhD students. This has led to many prestigious hapTEL awards including King’s Research Project of the year in 2012 and the appointment of Dr. Jonathan San Diego in 2007 who was firstly the excellent manager of the hapTEL project and is now a leading academic in technology in dental education in FODOCS.

Now, I still collaborate with many at King’s in research and consultancies and occasionally supervise a BDS Year 1 Research project. In 2023, I was also appointed as Honorary Professor at Portsmouth University (Dental Academy) with whom we have collaborated for years, to head up their research and teaching programme in Digital Dentistry. Our first collaborative output was to produce a set of Guidelines for HEE for Using Simulations, Haptics and Digital Dentistry in Education. There is always so much more to do so onwards and upwards is my motto.


2.       What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?

The biggest challenge I have had was when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1985 and died at 44 in 1986; a truly heart-breaking time for me and my three children. What helped me cope with this and has done with every challenge throughout my life is to play ‘The Glad Game’ from Pollyanna (Eleanor Porter, 1913). Every day I think of 5 things to be glad about. They can be just waking up alive (at my age), having a roof over one’s head or the sun is shining; there is always something to be glad about.


3.       If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?

My advice to my younger self would be learn to say ‘No’ and prioritise commitments.


4.        What does equity mean to you, and how can everyone (regardless of gender) embrace it?

To me Equity means fairness and justice but in our world everyone doesn’t have the same life chances and opportunities so never be afraid to speak out if you think you or any others are being unfairly treated. I mostly believe all people mean well and want to be helpful given the chance.


In this story

Margaret Cox

Margaret Cox

Emeritus Professor of Information Technology in Education

Women in STEMM Season

A month-long celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

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