Celebrating Women and Girls in Science: a blog from Natalie Fowler, Senior Critical Care Scientist

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Sunday 11 February), Senior Critical Care Scientist, Natalie Fowler shares her research journey and hopes to inspire other women and girls who are considering a career in science.

Natalie Fowler, Senior Critical Care Scientist

As a scientist in intensive care, I am the clinical and technical bridge for our nursing and medical staff. Our role as scientists is all about providing the best possible care to patients in intensive care. We ensure that the wide variety of technologies are used correctly, and any problems are addressed and resolved quickly. We work as part of the multi-disciplinary team to ensure safe transfers and timely access to advanced therapies – which are used in addition to standard life support. The therapies we initiate are often lifesaving interventions to our patients.

Every day is completely different and dependant on the patients admitted to intensive care. I could be ensuring patients get to scan safely, setting up and running haemofilter machines to act as an artificial kidney, initiating advanced respiratory therapies to deteriorating patients, running emergency clotting profiles or investigating clinical incidents. The list is pretty endless!

One of the most unique things about my job is that I cover adults, paediatrics and neonates (newborns) – so the variety of patients I care for, and my remit is huge.

I’ve worked at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) for eight years now, initially joining as part of my training contract and over the past three years have branched out into clinical research. I have a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biomedical Science and a Master of Science (MSc) in Clinical Science (Critical Care). After my undergraduate degree I got a job as a cardiographer, taking ECGs (a test that records the electrical activity of your heart) and fitting holter monitors (wearable device keeps track of the heart’s rhythm).

Whilst in this role, I had an incredibly supportive manager who was a very successful cardiac clinical scientist. She was so inspirational and pushed me to apply to the Scientist Training Programme. I never even knew this role existed until I read the application form but, now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I have been lucky to work with strong and motivated female role models since I left university, and this has always helped to spur me on to achieve my best. After several years of working in this field, I started to see the benefits of clinical research and the vital role it plays in the development of new therapies and technological advances, particularly in modern fields like intensive care.

My first research study investigated the usefulness of cerebral saturations monitoring (oxygen levels in the blood to the brain) on newborn babies while being moved in an ambulance. Since then, I’ve facilitated data gathering for a study into children with traumatic brain injuries and their long-term mortality prediction and I’ve just finished recruitment on my first medical device evaluation looking at a novel innovation leg stimulation device to prevent DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) in adults who are in intensive care. This is the first study I have set up and run myself where I was Principal Investigator, and I have more research plans in the pipeline. Being involved in clinical research and evidence-based practice is all about understanding if we are we doing our best and what can we change for the better.

Celebrating women in science is important to me because when I first considered working within research and looking at study days and conferences, I remember seeing that the majority were male medics. I was inspired by their work, but I do think it’s important for newly qualified staff and young girls to see that they can achieve the same high levels. Many of the lead scientists in our national circles are very successful women, which definitely inspires me in my work now and achieving my goals.

Inclusion is so important, especially in research, as everyone brings something new and exciting to the table. The more viewpoints and opinions and ideas you can have, the better. Everybody deserves to have the same chances regardless of who they are because we are all here to work towards the joint goal of improving patient care.

Some of my favourite, inspirational quotes are: “be the one to start the change” and “well behaved women rarely make history” – which motivated me to branch into something new and go against the norm. It’s about being confident that change can be better.


The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated globally, led by UNESCO and the United Nations to promote the full and equal access and participation of women in science.