A day in the life: Lecturer in Cancer at Imperial College

Charlotte Bevan became a lecturer in Cancer at Imperial College 19 years ago. She takes us through a day in the life balancing family life and research with the support of Imperial College.

En route to Charlotte Bevan's full Professorship, she had two children (the eldest is now at secondary school, the younger at primary). With the support of Imperial College, Charlotte was able to work flexibly – and on her return to work, she benefited from a College fellowship. This fellowship supplied funds to employ someone who could take care of teaching and administrative duties while Charlotte got back to grips with research and academic matters.

How do you start the day?

My start time depends on the work situation. If I have a deadline looming, I’ll set the alarm early and get a couple of hours in before my daughter gets up. I used to work late nights – now I find I’m more efficient in the morning. At 7am I wake my daughter, who needs to be out of the house by 8am. I’ll either have breakfast with her and leave at the same time, or if I don’t have any meetings first thing, I’ll hang around and have breakfast with my partner and son – and maybe walk my son to school as a special treat (for me!). Work is 6 miles away, so this being London that’s unfortunately a 40-minute drive.

Describe a normal morning at work. What do you get up to?

No two days are the same. I have a lab of postgraduate students, research assistants, and postdoctoral scientists all doing different experiments and with different needs. This may be one-to-one or group meetings, feedback on written reports, practical help. Plus there are many and varied other duties – teaching to prepare and deliver, exam marking, writing papers, seminars, committees (so many!) that I sit on.

Do you take a lunch break?

It’s complicated by the fact that Imperial is spread across 6 campuses, and sometimes I have to be at 3 in one day. Unsurprisingly then, lunch is usually a sandwich at my desk or even in the car driving between campuses. However, most days the lab all has a coffee break together, which keeps us sane. We’re very keen on cakes!

When does the work day end?

I usually get home around 6.30/7pm. My partner works from home, so he’s the one who picks up our son and is there when my daughter gets home. More often than not he cooks too – we have dinner all together. That often includes friends of the children that have ended up at ours, and it’s nice to have a chat with their parents when they come to collect – to touch base with that world of school and friends at the end of the working day. Evenings can be fraught, depending on levels of homework and tiredness. We’ll usually try and all watch a comedy on TV, or maybe even play some music together – anything to end the day on a harmonious note!

Do you face any challenges in this role?

There is unrelenting pressure to publish and to obtain grant funding, and often that’s hard to cope with – especially when other peoples’ jobs rely on it. And I struggle with guilt when I have to be away for long meetings. Especially if it means missing a milestone or a holiday, that’s really tough. On the plus side, the flexibility of academic life means it’s usually possible to attend those all-important school assemblies and to volunteer for school trips.

What do you love most about your job?

It’s very important to me to feel what I’m doing could make a difference to people with or at risk from cancer. And more selfishly, it’s never, ever boring! I get to work with the brightest people, from schoolchildren to professors. I travel to, and meet and work with people from, places all over the world. I feel incredibly lucky.

Are you considering a career change? Find out more on Mumsnet Jobs, or visit the Imperial College website.