Professor Erika Mancini

Group Head, Structural Biology

Associate Professor Erika Mancini was inspired to become a scientist from a very young age through observing her father, a theoretical physicist, immersed in his calculations.

“From early on I was captured by the fact that my father was so enthralled with his research. It was very inspiring as a young girl to see that passion.”

Erika also studied Physics at University as she believed that the degree would give her broad insight into how the world around us works. However, she soon found that she was drawn to the applied biological side of the subject and started to specialise in Biophysics. Her transition to Biology was fully accomplished when she was offered a very competitive PhD fellowship to work at one of Europe’s best research institutes, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg, Germany. There, she specialised in Cryo-electron microscopy, which at the time was an emerging structural biology technique.

After gaining her PhD in 2000, Erika was awarded an EMBO long-term post-doctoral fellowship to move to Oxford to learn crystallography in Professor David Stuart’s group.

“I moved to Oxford specifically to join David Stuart’s group, which is one of the most highly regarded research groups for crystallography in the field of structural virology.”

“Oxford is a centre for excellence for structural biology and also a wonderfully friendly place to work and live.”

In 2005, Erika was awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship which enabled her to set up her own independent group. Her group uses structural biology methods to dissect the biology of chromatin remodelling factors and transcription factors and how their interplay might regulate eukaryotic gene expression. She describes her research as her “passion” and that even though getting the balance right between being mum to her 2 young daughters and being a Group Head can be challenging, she loves doing it.

“Science is not just a career- it is a lifetime passion, something that you are really inspired to do.”

“I think that once you have a family having a healthy work/life balance becomes more of a fine art. There is a lot of juggling to do and willing or nilling you become a master at doing things as efficiently as possible.”

“I think that NDM is a phenomenal place to work. It offers a very supportive and nurturing environment. For me specifically a crucial development has been the NDM Athena SWAN application process and all the initiatives that are emerging as part of it. This means that more and more the NDM is becoming an environment that tries to recognise the specific challenges that women might face. This makes me very excited for myself and for all the young women starting a career in science.”