“Don’t stress the bad days, deal with it and look forward”

This month we are introducing you to a remarkable woman whose experimental science journey took her from hometown in New Zeland to England then to Canada and finally to China.

Work laptop bag fro women

Tell us little about yourself and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Gendie, I’m 48 (49 at the end of June) and I’m originally from New Zealand, but have lived overseas for the last 22 years, mainly in England but also had 3 years in Canada and have been in China for 4 years now.  I’m a research scientist and head the Laboratory of Uterine Vascular Biology at the Guangzhou Institute of Pediatrics, Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center.  My research focuses on pregnancy and how the blood vessels in the uterus (womb) are altered during early pregnancy to allow the placenta to receive oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood to feed the developing baby.  If this process doesn’t happen then it leads to a number of complications of pregnancy.

Was it always something you wanted to do?
I initially went to university to go to medical school, however, I didn’t get accepted – these things happen for a reason,
and in the process of completing my undergraduate honors degree I discovered an aptitude for and love of experimental science.  I decided to pursue a PhD in biochemistry, but in a reproductive biology laboratory – this if the field of science I’ve always wanted to be in.  I have a fascination of how we become complete people from just 2 cells fusing – it is mind-blowing and beautiful.

What is the best part of your job?
Making discoveries that I hope will one day help women in their reproductive success.  Also as I get older and higher up the food chain, being able to nurture and develop younger scientists.

How often do you travel for work? Any advice on how to make the most out of every trip?I travel internationally perhaps 2-3 times per year for work, mainly to attend conferences and visit with collaborators.  If I have a long haul flight then I always take that time to relax so that I can be refreshed and ready to go when I get to my destination.  Conferences can be very tiring – sitting all day, ‘networking’ at night – I try to fit in a work out as it helps combat some of the tiredness.  If I am somewhere new then I like to run or walk around the city – even if I don’t have time to visit the ‘sights’ I can at least get the feel of a place and work out if it’s somewhere I want to go back to.

 Who’s the most the interesting person you’ve met and talked with?
Sir Geoffry Palmer – he was prime minister of New Zealand in the 1980s, but he has also served on UN panels of inquiry and the international whaling commission – but is a very down to earth and easy to talk to you.

What do you do in your free time?
I’m pretty active – I dragon boat, hike, run, spend time with my friends (generally over food and alcohol).  I love to read, but don’t make enough downtime for that.  When I really need to sit and do nothing I go for a manicure and pedicure – really forces me to relax!

What was something you thought would be easy until you tried it?
Dragon boat – I had rowed for years, though hadn’t been in a boat for a while.  I wasn’t expecting the pace at which you paddle and how technical the stroke can be – but I’ve now fallen in love with it and the feeling of being part of a team all working together as one – the boat only moves really well when everyone is working together.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve been and why?
I’ve been lucky to travel a lot both personally and with work.  I think one of the most interesting places for me is India – the dichotomy between the classes, the poor and the rich – the functional poor and the slums that all had satellite dishes in them.  Those snapshots of human life fascinated me and I hope to have the opportunity to go back and spend more time there.

How different was your life 5 years ago?
Incredibly different – I was living in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, knowing that I was probably going to lose my job but really not knowing what else I could do.  I was inactive (though kidded myself that I wasn’t), obese and deeply unhappy.  Moving to China was a massive leap of faith – but has been the best thing I could have ever done.  Professionally it has been a wonderful move for me, our research is going well, we are getting funding, publications, invites from international organizations to speak at meetings and share our findings.  Personally, I’ve lost weight, gained an active lifestyle and feel better than I have in well over a decade.  I have a wonderful group of friends who enrich my life here.

And finally, what’s in your MILLENNY bag?:)
Laptop, red lipstick, chapstick, tissues, pens, phone, power bank, cables, passport, notebook, old train and flight tickets, receipts ……


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