Nicole Morrissey

Published on: 21 June 2017

Nicole Morrissey will be speaking at the Soapbox Science event.

University of Exeter Medical School PhD student, Nicole Morrissey, is researching the neuroscience of appetite, the ways in which your brain controls when to start and stop eating, and the impact of having a high-fat diet.

What is your current research about?

My research is in the neuroscience of appetite and energy regulation; how the brain controls when we start and stop eating. This research also investigates the impact of eating a high-fat diet on the brain’s ability to maintain energy homeostasis.

This is a huge and expanding area of research. My PhD project in particular is to investigate the role of a protein – located in the mitochondria of brain cells – and why its expression is increased in the hypothalamic brain regions, important for energy homeostasis, following high-fat diet.

Have you encountered any challenges, as a female academic?

I do not believe that I have done. I do appreciate that, but I am still early in my career. I do wonder about the challenges females face whilst following a research career path, especially when it comes to starting a family, but this would be the case with many careers.

I must note that the biological and biomedical sciences have a lot of inspirational female scientists pursuing careers – with and without families. Nonetheless, it is concerning that the further up the academic career ladder the fewer women there are. I hope that the number will increase over time.

The Soapbox Science event is an outreach platform for promoting women scientists; how do you think that more females can be encouraged to continue with STEM subjects?

I think one major factor – which does affect both women and men – is the stability of the academic job environment. Priorities change, and I believe it is very important to offer all academics the opportunity to continue to apply for funding and other career opportunities for if they decide to take a career break for a while – for example, to start a family. We should not lose good scientists – women or men – just because they took some time away from academic research.

I think it interesting that the biological and biomedical sciences have a much better representation of women than other STEM subjects. Is there something to be learnt from that? Perhaps at the level of school education - why would less female students choose STEM subjects?

In the UK, school students are asked to make important decisions on which subjects to study at a young age and so maybe this plays a role.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter.

If you were to organise a Soapbox Science event, which inspiring female scientists would you love to watch?

Reflecting back, I believe the vast majority of books I read – if not all - that influenced my interests in science were written by men.

These did include stories of female scientists, for example Rosalind Franklin – who contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA, but was only recognised posthumously.

Nonetheless, throughout my academic study - from undergraduate to PhD - I have encountered numerous fantastic female academics. I owe these women a lot for teaching and influencing me, and I would whole-heartedly support them if they wished to do an event like Soapbox Science!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you will be talking about at the upcoming Soapbox event?

In general, my talk will cover the intriguing relationship between food and the brain.

What I mean by that is, firstly, how the brain regulates when and how much we eat and also the impact of what - and when - we eat has on the brain.

It is such an amazing and extensive topic, it will be hard to be brief and succinct, but hopefully I can pass on some of the wonder and excitement!

Related links

» Nicole Morrissey

» College of Medicine and Health

» Soapbox Science

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