“Find a part of science that intrigues you, then continue to study it,” Dame Sarah Gilbert tells girls and women with STEM aspirations


Dame Sarah Gilbert proves herself to be an inspirational role model during delivery of Dimbleby lecture on her career and the current pandemic.

During the lecture held at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, creator of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, tells WISE CEO Kay Hussain that a successful career in STEM comes from following your interests.

WISE CEO Kay Hussain told Dame Sarah Gilbert she was “an inspiration to women and girls wanting to work in STEM.”

During the 44th Dimbleby lecture given by Sarah Gilbert and televised on the BBC last night, WISE CEO Kay Hussain who had been invited to be a member of the audience, told the professor that she was an inspiration to women and girls wanting to pursue a career in STEM. She followed by asking what advice Sarah would give to females wanting to follow such a career.

Sarah, whose vaccine has now been administered to over 1 billion people in over 170 countries, said “I would actually give the same advice to boys thinking about a career in STEM. Find a part of science that really interests and intrigues you and that you want to study, then continue to study it.” She added: “If you can find something that you really want to do then you’ll have a great career.”

Sarah went on to say that she hadn’t always been interested in vaccines, in fact her work when first joining Oxford University was around the genetics of host parasite interactions in Malaria. However, she said: “This quickly turned into a project in which I was developing vaccines against Malaria and this was when I got into the field.”

When asked what it was about vaccines that excited her she said: “I like working in an area where I can do something, I can intervene and make something. I can help human health.”

In August 2021, the toy company Mattell approached Sarah to ask about adding her to their Barbie Role Models series in which they create a doll in the likeness of people who have made a significant contribution to society to promote careers available to girls and children. Sarah subsequently requested that Barbie’s creator Mattell make a donation to WISE – her chosen STEM-focused organisation.

WISE is currently seeking nominations for its COVID Unsung Heroes Awards, to take place February 2022. This will celebrate women in STEM who have helped improve our lives, communities and economy during the pandemic.

Before joining WISE as CEO in February 2021, Kay Hussain held various senior leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry in the EU and the UK. She successfully led teams in the development and delivery of strategic and operational plans to enhance efficiency, team capability, customer experience and profitability.

She has also worked extensively as a STEM Ambassador for local schools and colleges and as a business mentor for NE Futures UTC.