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Queen Mary researchers named in top 100 female scientists in the UK

Frances Balkwill, Irene Leigh and Claudia Langenberg have been named in’s top 100 female scientists in the UK.

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Frances Balkwill, Irene Leigh and Claudia Langenberg
Frances Balkwill, Irene Leigh and Claudia Langenberg released their first annual ranking of top female scientists in the world yesterday (21 October). The aim of the ranking is to “inspire female scholars, women considering an academic career, as well as decision-makers worldwide with the example of successful women in the scientific community.”

Three researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry have been named in the top 100 female scientists in the UK:

Frances Balkwill, Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute

Frances studies the links between cancer and inflammation, with a particular focus on ovarian cancer, and she researches ways of translating this into treatments to test in clinical trials. She is Deputy Lead for the Centre for the Tumour Microenvironment at Barts Cancer Institute. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

She is also passionate about science communication, especially to young people. When she was unable to find a book about cells for her children, she decided to write one herself. She’s since published a number of children’s books on scientific topics. Her books have received a number of awards and in 2008, she was awarded an OBE for services to science communication to children.

She is Director of the Centre of the Cell, a unique informal biomedical science learning centre based at Queen Mary’s Whitechapel campus. Centre of the Cell is the first science education centre in the world to be located within working research laboratories. Since the opening in 2009, there have been over 225,000 primary and secondary school-age participants in its interactive science shows, workshops, digital experiences and youth engagement events.

Claudia Langenberg, Director of the Precision Health University Research Institute

Claudia is a German-British scientist who has been recently appointed as the Director of the Precision Health University Research Institute (PUHRI), a new cross-faculty institute that will work closely with Barts Health NHS Trust to research and develop innovations in precision healthcare.

A public health clinician by training, her research is focused on the genetic basis of metabolic control, and her team studies its effects on health through integration of detailed molecular with large-scale clinical data.

Before joining Queen Mary in September 2022, Claudia was Professor of Computational Medicine at the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité University Medicine, Germany, where she continuous to hold a part-time role and team, and MRC Investigator and Programme Leader at the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Claudia has 9-year-old twin daughters and is passionate about the promotion of girls and women in science.

Irene Leigh, Professor of Cell and Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Dentistry

Irene’s research has focused on non-melanoma skin cancers and genetic skin diseases. Early in her career, she established the Centre for Cutaneous Research at the London Hospital Medical College, which later became part of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. The Centre became a world leader in skin biology research.

Irene directed the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) skin tumour laboratory from 1989-2017. She returned to Queen Mary in 2018 as the Interim Dean for Dentistry and then served as International Dean until 2021 when she served as Interim VP Health. She now leads a project to establish the Queen Mary International Clinical Academy.

Irene’s research focuses on cutaneous squamous cell carcinogenesis particularly genomic and transcriptomic analysis. This has extended to other squamous cancers in a Centre of Excellence for Squamous Cancer being established within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

Irene is a Fellow of the Academy Medical Science and Fellow of Royal Society Edinburgh. In 2006, she was honoured with an OBE for services to medicine and then a CBE in 2012.

Irene said:

“I have been a long-standing supporter of gender equality in medicine so am pleased to see this initiative to highlight the contribution of women scientists.”

Gender equality at Queen Mary

Gender equality remains an issue in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects. According to UNESCO, only 30% of scientific researchers across the world are female. At Queen Mary, social justice and equality have always been central to our mission, and as the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, we recognise the responsibility we have to ensure that science is open to all. We are proud to hold two silver Athena Swan awards for gender equality, and have an active Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group.

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