International Day of Women and Girls in Science 11th February


The United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015. This was to bring attention to the fact that women and girls continue to be excluded from science education and are therefore under-represented in university courses and occupations.

The following is paraphrased from the United Nations website:

“Women continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) all over the world. On 20th December 2013, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in which it recognised that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”

In the UK, there is no barrier to women participating in science subjects, but only 35% of STEM students are women, demonstrating that even where there is opportunity, there is an unwillingness to consider training and employment in these areas. This is despite the fact that core STEM employment opportunities continue to increase more in comparison to other areas.

Women in the STEM workforce in the UK

Figure taken from “Women in Stem” and based on UCAS data from HESA and findings from WISE campaigns.

There is a national shortage of STEM professionals that needs to be addressed by encouraging the participation of underrepresented groups.

“To stay competitive globally, the nation needs the talent and creative ability of all of its people—both women and men. But women currently are a smaller part of the science and engineering workforce—in industry and in our nation’s colleges and universities.”

Quote taken from the National Academy of Sciences.

Cellesce, was co-founded by Professor Marianne Ellis, an expert in the design of bioprocesses for scalable bioreactors for cell expansion, She is currently Head of Department of Chemical Engineering at Bath University.

At Cellesce, there are 13 full-time members of staff. 9 of these are women (62%).

Here are some soundbites from a few of our scientists, explaining their role at Cellesce and what inspired them to choose science as a career.

Dr. Victoria Marsh-Durban, CEO

Victoria Marsh Durban“I have overall responsibility and accountability for the day-to-day running of Cellesce as a business. I now work on the business/commercial side of the company but I trained first as a scientist and hold a Ph.D. in Cancer Genetics. I first became interested in science at the age of 7, when I was given the “Usborne Science Encyclopaedia” as a gift – it instantly became my favourite book, particularly the section on biology and the human body! Later, I became fascinated with proteins, and their amazing diversity, function and roles in human health and disease, which led to me studying Biochemistry. I’ve also always enjoyed practical tasks and making/creating things with my hands, so science was a perfect outlet for that too.”

Dr. Carly Bunston, Research Scientist

As a Research Scientist at Cellesce my role involves the optimisation and biological validation of our bioreactor process for the expansion of new patient-derived organoids lines. My interest in cancer research sparked my desire to become a scientist, with the hope that my work will in some way help towards improving patient outcomes.

Elizabeth Fraser, Alliance Manager

I worked for many years in academic labs in the field of Cancer Research. Now, I apply that experience to managing research projects within the company. I also develop relationships with external parties to complement Cellesce’s expertise and help our business to flourish.

My father was an Organic Chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, so he was the person who encouraged me to have an interest in science (although I preferred biology to chemistry)! I’ve always loved crafting and making things and the practicality and dexterity needed for that is very applicable to lab work.

Dr Jessica Pinheiro de Lucena-Thomas, Bioprocess Engineer

I operate and monitor Cellesce’s bioreactors and am currently working on the development of our next generation technology. My first degree was in Chemical Engineering in Brazil. I moved to the UK in 2016 and studied for my Ph.D at the University of Bath.

I was inspired to be an engineer following a visit to the paint manufacturing plant where my father used to work. I loved the massive machinery, pipes and reactors. Today, I am working on a much smaller scale (with organoids), which presents its own challenges. It’s very rewarding to be able to apply my engineering expertise to the development of an enabling technology that will facilitate success in drug discovery and ultimately improve people’s lives.

Harman Chaggar, Manufacturing Technician

As a Manufacturing Technician, I assist in the development of new protocols and processes. Once established, I must closely follow the Standard Operating Procedures of the products being manufactured. This ensures that the organoids that we produce meet the necessary specifications and are consistent and reproducible. I was drawn to science in High School when I learned how advances in technology can be used to increase our understanding of human biology and the mechanisms of disease. With this knowledge comes the ability to look for effective treatments.

What we do at Cellesce:

This animation gives a brief overview of our company.
We have a patented bioprocessing technology that enables Cellesce to generate high quality organoids at scale for the pharma and biotech industries as a more patient-centric model for drug discovery and development.