Helping us unlock potential: Hilary Lappin-Scott's story

14 July 2022

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Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, President of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) and former President of the Microbiology Society, chose to donate to the Unlocking Potential Fund to support early career microbiologists overcome personal circumstances and become more active in their community.

Professor Lappin-Scott, whose research focuses on understanding biofilm communities, spent a lot of her career working on removing barriers and supporting girls and women in STEM subjects. When reflecting on the challenges she faced herself, Hilary mentioned there were very few women in microbiology at the beginning of her career, and she was among the first generation of women balancing family life with their science careers.

At Hilary’s first international conference, just as she was about to present her research, the Session Chair pointed out that she was the only woman who was a speaker at the entire conference. “This made me feel uncomfortable and not welcome”, Hilary shared. Having good male mentors who were encouraging and helped open doors was extremely important for Hilary.

When thinking about why it was important to donate to the Unlocking Potential Fund, Hilary mentioned, “Over the years, so much has been made available for my lab group in terms of grants which has benefitted my students, so I wanted to pay that forward.” Hilary also mentioned that the Society is dear to her heart as it has had a huge impact on her own career. 

Hilary hopes to see the Unlocking Potential Grant support early career members to become more active in the community, whether that is with assistance with travel to enhance collaboration or through opportunities at conferences that can help with their career development. Over the past few years, many have experienced unexpected hardships that have held them back, so Hilary would also like to see the fund support microbiologist with such personal circumstances.

When giving advice to early career researchers, Hilary highlights the importance of mentoring “Look for a mentor outside of your lab group who can help with shaping your ideas and assist you in taking your next career steps.” Hilary also encourages early career researchers to engage and start conversations with others in their communities, as well as at in-person meetings, “realising other researchers have the same problems, helps you feel less isolated, as you can relate well to each other.”

The large community and sense of belonging are two reasons Hilary believes being part of a membership society, such as the Microbiology Society, is so important. As President of FEMS, Hilary knows how valuable these organisations are, as often people choose to be a member of more than one academic society.

Our members have a unique depth and breadth of knowledge about microbiology. The Microbiology Society’s role is to help unlock and harness their potential. Join Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott today by donating to the Unlocking Potential Fund.

Image: Hilary Lappin-Scott .