28 January 2022
“Finding your passion is the key,” Professor Kim Dale told senior pupils at Kilgraston School, “finding that work/life balance is absolutely vital.”
The Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Assistant Vice Principal (International) of the University of Dundee, was speaking to girls as part of the School’s Women and Business industry insider lecture series.
A world-expert in Notch Signalling Pathways, the research scientist detailed her own career pathway, starting with a BSc Hons in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Southampton before progressing to a PhD in Developmental Biology and Embryology at London’s UCL: “This was a very tough course,” she told girls, “however, I cannot tell you how exciting it is to be asking a question no-one else in the whole world knows the answer to and you’re going to find!”
This passion for science saw the Professor pursue her interest to sunny southern France and the Campus de Luminy at the CNRS Faculté des Sciences at the Aix Marseille University. Here, she took a post-doctoral position, as an independent scientist, asking “really exciting biological questions.”
Professor Dale investigated embryonic Somite skeletal development and timeframes for different species – in a mouse it’s two hours, in a human eight! For the very first time, the presence of a gene ‘clock’ was established, discovering that if the Notch Pathway was interrupted (the ‘clock’ going wrong) normal development would be hampered.
From here, it was off to mid-west America to a brand-new Science research facility. While here, Prof Dale not only became a mum but developed her own independent research questions and pilot data which allowed her to apply for and secure funding to establish her own research laboratory back in Scotland and to the University of Dundee’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
Upon returning, several new skills had to be learnt – budget responsibility, people management and recruitment. “The biggest key to making it work is employing the right people,” the Professor emphasised, “my success was their success and their success was my success.” Key to success with the cutting-edge research in stem cell development was the team: “We’re all always learning from each other.”
Professor Dale concluded her talk by describing how her career had moved into management, last year accepting the position of Assistant Vice Principal where she draws on her international connections and experience: “Open your eyes for a great mentor at every step,” girls were advised, “always make sure you are passionate about the job.”
Professor Dale was given rapturous applause from all year groups, one pupil commenting: “She was just so inspiring!”
Ewan Connolly, Head of Science at Kilgraston, said: “Being presented with industry experts goes a long way to helping pupils with both tertiary education and career choices. We were very privileged to have someone of Professor Dale’s calibre visit the School.”
Kilgraston School is very proud of the fact that, on average, every year over 60% of Sixth Form leavers pursues an undergraduate STEM subject including, in 2022, to read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge.