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Women in Science 2019: Dr Kathleen Vancleef

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Sunday, February 10, 2019

February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared by the UN with the aim of promoting full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

To mark the day, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate some of our own brilliant women in science, by finding out more about the amazing things they do and how they got to where they are today.

Dr Kathleen Vancleef is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Christ Church. Her research focuses on how the brain structures visual information, and through her work she wants to improve the lives of adults and children with brain damage. She is currently working on improving screening for visual perception problems in acute stroke patients.

Dr Kathleen VancleefSummarise your research area

I am passionate about translational research in the domain of visual perception. With my work, I want to improve the life of adults and children with brain injury. My basic research projects focus on how the brain structures visual information. I apply the research findings from these fundamental research projects in the development of vision tests for brain-damaged adults, children with Cerebral Visual impairment, and children with amblyopia (lazy eye). The tests have a large impact in the scientific and clinical community. Currently, I am working on improving screening for visual perception problems in acute stroke patients.

What were your favourite subjects at school, and why? 

Maths: I love playing with numbers, and logical rules (I found all those exceptions in grammar rules of any language very confusing).

When and why did you decide to study science at university? 

I decided to study Psychology when I was 18. There is a different system in Belgium, with no A-levels, and no need to decide in advance. I wanted to help people, and use my interpersonal skills. That was before I discovered my research career and got any work experience in clinical psychology. I changed my career path after internships in clinical psychology and research.

What aspect of your work do you most enjoy? 

Solving problems like statistical problems and computer programme problems; coming up with new ideas; constant learning; seeing the impact of my research; presenting my research; taking to clinicians about how my research can help their practice (not just disseminating, but more learning what their needs are); and supervising young researchers.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? 

There isn’t just one thing – you need different advice at different stages in your career. And there is a good bit of coincidence involved too! At the moment it’s probably ‘put your eggs in many baskets’.

What are you most proud of? 

Gaining an independent research fellowship at one of the best universities in the world.

Who is your most inspirational female scientist? 

There’s not just one person – there are a few good examples of women I’ve met during my career. I learn different things from different people.

What do you hope to achieve in the future? 

I’d like to set up my own research group, supervise and mentor young researchers, and help them to progress in their career.

If you could give one piece of advice to girls considering studying science, what would it be? 

Get work experience or shadowing, and talk to scientists with different career paths. If it is indeed what you like: go for it!