Dr Sarah De Val

University Research Lecturer & Group Head, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

After giving birth to her first child the same day her first Cell paper was published, Dr Sarah De Val’s personal and professional life will always be inextricably linked.

Completing her undergraduate degree in Biology at Imperial University, Sarah went on to study her PhD in Genetics before commencing her postdoc at the University of California’s Berkeley campus in 2002. One year later Sarah relocated to the University of California San Francisco, where she completed her postdoc under the supervision of Professor Brian Black.

Seven life-changing years later, Sarah returned to the UK to be closer to family. She now runs her own research group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Oxford, where she works on gene regulation to control the growth of blood vessels into solid tumours.

Sarah currently employs two postdoc and three students, and recently returned to her lab after taking six months maternity leave with her second child.

“Being a working mother in a research career isn’t easy, but it is achievable. To start with, my partner works part time running his own business, so without him I don’t know how I would manage it. We also live very close to work, which makes life a lot easier,” Dr De Val says.

I think in a lot of cases science can be more flexible than other fields. I’m also very lucky to have really good staff members who are all willing and able to jump in and make things happen when I’m not there. My postdoc did a fabulous job of leading our research team while I was away on maternity leave, so I’ve been very fortunate.”

“Maternity leave at the University is great and I think six months is just the right amount of time. I also really like the ‘keep in touch’ scheme, which allowed me to attend and claim expenses on three conferences while I was on leave. Attending conferences is really important for career progression, so this scheme really helped me to feel connected.”