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      Work/life experiences of Brookes’ academics


    I quite like a challenge, I don’t like getting bored.

    Linda King is the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Global Partnerships. Linda joined Brookes as a lecturer in virology in 1986 and has held several teaching and management posts at the University since then. She has supervised over 50 PhD students at Brookes, runs a research group and, along with her husband, is the co-founder of a spin-out biotech company called Oxford Expression Technologies.

  • Linda was the first of her family to go to university, and one of the only girls at her school to stay on for sixth form. 
    On graduating from the University of Liverpool with a BSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Linda wasn’t initially sure what she wanted to do. She thought she might pursue teaching and went to Cambridge to undertake a teacher training course. However, her enjoyment of research - first awakened during her BSc and then cemented during a summer job at ICI Pharmaceuticals - made evident her real passion for virology. “Viruses have always fascinated me”, she notes, and this longstanding passion led her to do a DPhil in this field at the University of Oxford. This would be the beginning of a long, illustrious career in research. 
    It is during this time that Linda met her husband with whom she has led what she describes as a “collaborative career” ever since. Although they have been based at different institutions, they have a collaborative research group, as well as their spin out company.
    Upon completing her DPhil in 1986, Linda was awarded a job at Oxford Brookes, then Oxford Polytechnic, and she describes this decision as “probably the best thing I did”. 

    Over her time at Brookes, Linda has transitioned slowly into leadership and management roles: she was Head of the School of Life Sciences for eight years before progressing to Associate Dean and then PVC. She says that she finds the problem-solving aspect of these positions particularly rewarding. Additionally, Linda takes great satisfaction from helping her colleagues to progress.

    What I’ve always enjoyed and why I applied for my current job is that I like being in a position where you can help and support other people to develop their careers. I find that quite rewarding.

    Linda has combined her career and family hugely successfully, saying that each of these two parts of her life benefits from the other. Her children enjoyed the advantage of being able to travel a lot when Linda and her husband went to conferences. She recollects that the Royal Society were fairly progressive at the time (this was the early 1990s) as they gave grants for childcare, which meant that when the couple went to an international conference, the children could come too. They would extend the work trip into a family holiday. Similarly, having children has its benefits in the workplace as well. Reflecting on the challenge of managing people, Linda says:

    That’s where having children helps! Learning to deal with children helps you deal with people and listen to everyone’s points of view. It’s never one sided.

    Linda clearly sees these two aspects of her life as mutually reinforcing. Linda had the support of her family when it came to balancing the two and thus, career-wise, Linda says

    I couldn’t have done it without my husband.

    They always shared the childcare for their three, now adult, children and juggled their personal commitments so that both could pursue their successful careers. She also recalls that having her mother next door in a “granny annexe”, and full-time childcare when her children were young were indispensable in enabling both her and her husband to continue progressing in their careers.
    Linda thrives when she is being challenged and so enjoys the variety of her job, which currently involves not only teaching, research and management but also the brand new University function of global partnerships.

    I quite like a challenge, I don’t like getting bored.

    Linda finds the applications of her research extremely fulfilling. For instance, the fact that the virus she studies and the research she has done can be used to develop vaccines for serious diseases. Reflecting on her career, Linda is particularly proud of the role she played in helping to build the research profile of Brookes. Another highlight is the spin-out company that she co-founded to disseminate some of this research, and which is still thriving ten years on.
    Linda’s current role as PVC is even more intensive than she expected, with regular early starts and evening functions. However, for her, success is about enjoying what you do. She says that ultimately being passionate about what you do and having good colleagues to work with, is what enables you to do all the juggling.

    The people at Brookes have always been amazing to work with.

    Linda stresses the importance of being open minded, flexible and patient. She identifies passion for your subject as essential to becoming an academic, as everything will follow from this initial spark.

    Find out what really makes you interested and passionate and don’t lose it.