Celebrating women and girls in science

As a company immersed in science and research, and with our team comprising almost two thirds women, we could not let the International Day of Women and Girls in Science go by without recognising it in some way. We asked women scientists in our team, as well as those working with us on our clinical trial, three questions to inspire others to follow in their footsteps ...

Professor Trisha Suppes, Stanford University School of Medicine, currently conducting a study of severe treatment-resistant depression using psilocybin provided by COMPASS (IIS study)

What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most? 
I’ve always been fascinated with the brain – particularly how the complex network of synapses and cells make up our minds, our personalities and us as individuals. When I first started out, there were hardly any women in the field, and I wanted to change that. I was the first female President of the ISBD (International Society for Bipolar Disorders), and founded their Women’s Initiative to improve opportunities and representation for women within the profession. We’re still working hard to achieve a balance, and I believe we will get there with continued focus and work.

Which female scientists do you admire most?
There are so many to mention! Many of my contemporaries are leading the research in advancing how we understand and treat mental disorders: Leanne Williams from Stanford and Carol Tamminga from UT Southwestern are two of many. I also admire my male mentors who supported me throughout my career including early mentors such as Donald Kennedy and Ross Baldessarini.

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science?
Take all the opportunities that come your way, you will and can rise to the occasion. Support each other as much as you can.  By working collectively, our potential for success is much improved - and it is also more fun!


What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most?
I was a maths fanatic at school, I found something satisfying in reducing a long strings of digits and symbols to a single unified answer. I also loved people, and wanted to find a way to combine what was in the textbooks with the people around me, leading to a career in medicine. I enjoy working in a team with a shared goal of helping others and improving society. As a psychiatrist, I am privileged to be alongside patients on their journey, by joining them in their suffering to find meaning in this chaotic world.

Which female scientists do you admire most?
Dr Rosalind Watts and Dr Dani Gordan, for their holistic approach to healing and wellness, and commitment to treating people as complex individuals rather than a diagnosis or set of symptoms. And of course, all of the unnamed, anonymous, female scientists who did huge amounts of work behind the scenes, making the greatest scientific discoveries throughout history possible.

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science?
You don't always have to know the answers and it's okay to ask for help. Approaching anything with curiosity and an open mind will take you far. Share ideas and welcome ideas from others, even if they conflict with your own; we all have something to offer and everyone should have a voice. Whatever path you choose to take in life, remember to be kind and have fun!

Dr Chloe Sakal, psychiatrist based in Bristol, UK and part of the COMPASS study team investigating psilocybin therapy in treatment-resistant depression


Catherine Bird,
Research Assistant,
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), and part of the COMPASS study team investigating psilocybin therapy in treatment-resistant depression

What attracted you to science / medicine and what do you enjoy most?
My Biology teacher in secondary school, Mrs Cowland, played a big part in my decision to take up science at university. Her enthusiasm was really contagious. 

Which female scientists do you admire most?
I work with, and have worked with, great female scientists. I learnt most of what I know from women at UCL's Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit during my MSc, and currently I'm lucky to work with some very admirable women at King's College. You know who you are!

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science? 
Don't be scared of rejection. Be persistent & patient. Work hard.


What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most?
Being able to have a deeper understanding of the world and the processes that underlie how it functions. It makes life more interesting when you can appreciate how complicated and intertwined everything is. It can be easier to make sense of things if you know how, and sometimes, why life is the way it is.  

Which female scientists do you admire most?
I admire scientists who value advancing understanding over their own personal ambitions. Two great examples are Dorothy Crawford who cares so much about the research she does, including travelling to Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic. I also value Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist, because she is an example of someone who communicates what her scientific research is revealing to her in spite of public opinion.

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science?
Science always needs new perspectives and all types of brains, so if you are fascinated by what processes may underlie the phenomena you are examining, you will enjoy your work. The scientific community is a great place for interested and interesting minds.

Molly Hickey, COMPASS Research intern


Dr Sue Stansfield, Vice President of Clinical Operations at COMPASS, on the cover of Journal of Endocrinology at the age of 25

What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most? 
I had a natural aptitude for science (rather than arts) subjects at school and this developed further at University.  Neuroscience always seemed to be a more challenging discipline because of the lack of direct direct biomarkers to assess human health. My PhD and post doc research focused on (what was then) the brand new field of endogenous opioid peptides and their integration with traditional neurotransmitter pathways.  From there, it was a short leap into clinical research, serotonin and mood disorders in the Pharma Industry where I stayed for 10 years.

Which female scientists do you admire most?
Susan Greenfield who manages to be a Baroness, a Neuroscientist and a style icon!  

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science? 
A background in science; deploying a logical approach and with expertise in analytical thinking, equips you for so many different career paths.  My own route deviated into a more business-focused area when I moved into senior roles in the CRO industry.  Facilitating drug development in this way was just as rewarding as basic research.  Also, it’s really important not to distinguish between traditionally “female” and “male” roles - just go for it!


What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most?
Working towards something meaningful by developing ethical, innovative, and safe treatments for patients who need it the most. I love constant learning and development, challenging myself to go beyond my limits, whilst being able to think critically and make my own judgements.

Which female scientists do you admire most?
Rosalind Franklin for her participation in the discovery of the double helix of DNA. This discovery deeply changed science and continues to contribute to the advancement of personalised medicine today.

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science?
Women scientists are as talented as men scientists, follow your dreams and aspirations.

Dr Anais Soula, COMPASS Research Scientist


Dr Aslihan Selimbeyoglu, COMPASS Research Scientist

What attracted you to science and what do you enjoy most?
Science is the best tool to satisfy one’s intellectual curiosities. As most young minds, I had endless questions about natural phenomena, how stuff worked, but prominently about human mind and behaviour. Learning any new bits of knowledge about the brain, human psyche, and sharing it with others have been the utmost joy of my journey.

Which female scientists do you admire most?
I honestly admire all scientists for doing what they are doing given the limited amount of support and appreciation that they receive. There are female scientists I have had the privilege to work with, who came across hurdles and failures, and still kept their passion for science against all the odds. These include Emily Sylwestrak, Melissa Warden and Gül Dölen, all of whom now have their own research groups.

What advice would you give to other girls/women starting out in science?
Read.