Rachel Freathy

Dr Rachel Freathy

Rachel is a Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School. Her research aims to use genetics to understand the factors affecting the growth of a foetus in utero and its association with type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Being awarded her fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society last year marked Rachel’s proudest professional achievement to date. She said: “It came after quite a tough period of grant writing while keeping various projects going during part-time work, and balancing that with looking after our two young children. I was delighted to receive the phone call, telling me I'd been successful. I now have the resources and support to establish my own research group, and to spend most of my working day on the research I love, which will hopefully lead to real improvements in our understanding of foetal growth and its links with adult disease.”

Rachel believes we should work to remove the barriers that prevent anyone's talents from being recognised. She said: “It would be wonderful to live in a society that recognises difference but values each person equally. Everybody would benefit if we could eradicate many types of discrimination, not just on the basis of gender, but also of age, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.”

Many women have inspired her both professionally and personally with their attitudes or actions, but asked to pick one above all; Rachel said it would be her Mum. “She never stops setting herself challenges and achieving them, and that's very inspiring,” she explains. “She is also incredibly supportive to her family and friends. That support has contributed directly to my career success to date. I hope I can be as supportive to my own children.”

Rachel says that working in a team is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. “Over the last few years, I have been amazed by what can be achieved when people work together with the common goal of producing the best possible research. It is not always easy, but I really recommend collaborative research and I have learnt many valuable skills from working both in small teams within the University and in large international collaborations. I am constantly reminded how far my own success is due to these collective efforts.”

Asked what brings her joy, Rachel admits: “At the risk of sounding nerdy, it is always joyous and exciting to have access to a fresh dataset because it may harbour an exciting discovery.” But overall, what brings her most joy in life is reading books with her children. “The cosiness, the calm, and focusing on the same thing all at the same time,” she adds, “It is wonderful to see their reaction to books that I enjoyed as a child and to discover new books together.”