Women of Bio21 - Justine Mintern

Justine Mintern, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Head of Vaccine Biology Lab

I investigate the pathways and molecules involved in initiating immune responses. My overall goal is to design more sophisticated immunotherapies for use in infection and cancer.

What did you want to be growing up?

A vet. This decision was largely based on a teenage crush I had on a vet in the BBC TV show “All Creatures Great and Small”. The lack of any wisdom behind this decision emerged during a casual job at a vet clinic. Fortunately, I discovered medical research, otherwise I might be sticking my arm into a cow’s inner cavities right now.

A key challenge you’ve faced?

When I first began my PhD, I very quickly realised that I was not engaged with the project. After much deliberation I put my PhD on hold, took the year off and worked as a research assistant. I then re-enrolled in a new lab and a very different project. This was now research that I loved and it set me up for the career I have today. While challenging, the experience taught me to be proactive and that tough decisions can be very rewarding.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Managing not to get too over excited when I met Shaun Micallef. He is a hero. Professionally, I am proud to be in a position where I oversee a group of motivated and enthusiastic researchers that are working together to generate knowledge about our immune system.

What do you hope for women in STEM?

Like all women, I want women in STEM to have fulfilling and challenging careers without inequality based on our gender. The momentum is building for this to happen. I am particularly interested in what can be done to help women impeded by race, religion or socioeconomic status and how to support their access to STEM education and careers.

Who inspires you most?

I’m inspired by people that lead fun and interesting lives and don’t take themselves too seriously. Fortunately, I seem to know quite a few.

What is your passion/hobby/interest outside of work?

I like to watch weird films. The crazier the plot, the higher the chance that I will like it. Throw a subtitle into the mix and I’m even happier.