DPhil Student (1968-71), Departmental Demonstrator (1971), MRC-funded Research Fellow (1978), Temporary Lectureship (1984)
Having read Physiology at UCL (1964-67), Dr Mary Phillips DPhil BSc moved to Oxford to undertake an MRC-funded DPhil in the Laboratory of Physiology, supervised by Professor Victor Coxon. Her thesis - “Investigation of Some of the Properties Cerebral Metabolism”- largely involved the study of glycogen in the brain, and was accepted in 1971. In 1971, she was appointed Departmental Demonstrator in Physiology, and continued to pursue her research interests in cerebral metabolism alongside her teaching commitments. In 1978, working as an MRC-funded Research Fellow, she joined a group headed by Professor Charles Michel, investigating the biophysical properties of microvascular endothelium, and was involved in the formulation of a novel theory of capillary permeability. She continued to teach in the department and in 1984 was appointed to a temporary lectureship. Charles Michel subsequently took a Chair at St Mary’s and she was invited to join Dr Ann Taylor’s research group working on epithelial transport. She then spent a summer at Cornell Medical College in New York, learning the technique of in vitro micro-perfusion of mammalian renal tubules. On her return to Oxford, she established a micro-perfusion laboratory with support from the Wellcome Trust. She was also appointed to a lecturership at University College, Oxford.
In 1989, she joined the Wellcome Trust as Scientific Manager of the Physiology and Pharmacology Panel at the Trust. According to Dr Phillips: “As a member of the Physiological Society, I was very familiar with the UK’s Physiology research scene and greatly enjoyed working with the Advisory Panel comprising some of the best scientists in the country.” She was also responsible for the establishment and management of the Equipment Panel, set up to address the problem of funding expensive items of equipment for biomedical research (a forerunner of the Joint Infrastructure Fund, a major UK Government-Wellcome Trust initiative). She developed its remit and policies and was responsible for the provision of approximately £70million worth of equipment to laboratories throughout the UK. In 1997, she became Scientific Programme Manager of the International Biomedical Programme, which handled scientific proposals from countries world-wide, but with particular emphasis on funding biomedical science in developing and restructuring countries. This role involved negotiating with senior academics and governmental and non-governmental funding agencies globally, on issues such as research priorities, science budgets and partnerships. In her last year at Wellcome, she also took over the management of two additional schemes: Animal Health in Developing Countries and the Health Consequences of Population Change Programme. During her time at Wellcome, Dr Phillips was largely responsible for the development of the Trust’s approach to flexible career development aimed at enabling women scientists to maintain careers in research and was, for many years, the Trust’s spokesman on issues relating to animal experimentation.
In 2004, she left the Wellcome Trust and returned to UCL as Director of Research Planning for Biomedicine. She was responsible for the College’s successful bid to the MRC for the relocation of the National Institute of Medical Research (now the Crick Institute) to UCL. She also helped develop UCL’s International Health agenda, including leading delegations in this area to India and Cuba. In 2007, she became UCL’s first Director of Research Planning, working directly with the Vice-Provost for Research and the Provost (President), and responsible for the planning, development and implementation of UCL’s Research Strategy. She also became a member of the Research Policy Committee of the League of European Research Universities and wrote a number of policy papers for them. In 2009, she seconded to the MRC to initiate and lead their Global Chronic Disease Programme. She set up a partnership with the Indian Council for Medical Research and launched a funding call in the area of chronic disease with the latter agency.
She retired in 2011, first becoming a freelance consultant to Academic Analytics USA for several years, and is now an established artist designing and producing prints for sale in various North-West London venues.
Read an interview with Mary Phillips "The Academic Evaluation Conundrum" on the EuroScientist journal website.