Alumni Profile: Gillian Pearce

Gillian Pearce Profile Pic With Trees In Sunlight BehindGillian Pearce (Clinical Medicine, 1993) writes about her time at then-Green College.

Why did you choose Green College?

I chose the college because there were many other medics (staff and students) in this college. I felt I would fit in given that I was studying for a medical degree at the time. I was a mature student when I embarked on my medical degree. I had completed my pre-clinical course at St. Hilda’s College, and prior to that I had completed undergraduate degrees in Physics, and Biomedical Sciences and a PhD in Astrophysics. I had completed several post-doctoral fellowships in Astrophysics including an Atlas Research Fellowship at Oxford University.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Choose a college that has a strong background in the subject you are studying. This facilitates easy networking, and people in your subject are at hand to chat to academically about your subject and ideas.

What is your most enduring memory of college?

I liked the fact that it was a college that had a strong foundation in Medicine, but also had an observatory. I felt at home there because I was an established astrophysicist studying for a medical degree. I met inspirational people at Green College who were very supportive of my interest in Space Medicine.

Can you tell us a bit about your life and career?

I am now retired. However I am still engaged in research activities in both Astrophysics and Medicine. I am also still involved (on a voluntary basis) in co-supervising undergraduate and masters projects in Astrophysics and Medicine both in the UK and abroad. I undertook several post-doctoral research fellowships in Astrophysics, eg Durham and Birmingham Universities and was an Atlas Research Fellow in Astrophysics at Oxford University (Jesus College Oxford University). I also held visiting Fellowships in the UK and abroad. I was a shortlisted astronaut candidate for the JUNO joint Anglo-soviet space mission. Following completion of my medical degree at Oxford, I undertook NHS posts in general medicine, general surgery and Orthopaedics.

My parents were both highly supportive of my careers in Astrophysics and Medicine. I enjoyed doing carpentry as a child with my Father and that may have influenced my choice of Orthopaedics as my chosen field of specialty. I have always been interested in both Astrophysics and Medicine from a very young age (pre-school). As time went on, I became very interested in how humans could live and work in the Space environment, and how the different systems of the human body might adapt to living in Space. I was especially interested in how the skeletal system adapted to the Space environment. Hence my choice of Orthopaedics as an area of expertise in Medicine. I am also involved in research in Astrobiology, specifically investigating how tardigrades might survive in simulated Martian soil. This collaboration involves scientists in the USA and Poland.

And you have other interests too…

I am involved in voluntary church work (mainly pastoral care nowadays). Previously I have undertaken voluntary chaplaincy work in Universities, hospitals, hospices and care homes, giving services and providing pastoral care to people. I have also given church services in many different religious denominations (eg Methodist, URC, Unitarian, C of E plus other denominations).

I have also undertaken canal boat ministry with a colleague in the Methodist church and participated in the ‘Cross of Knives’ initiative on Good Friday 2019. This involved the welding of a cross made from knives, its transport to London (from the West Midlands), and a service in Parliamentary Square concerning knife crime and ways to prevent this, which was also attended by some MP’s. I have also undertaken voluntary work in schools teaching maths and science. It is important to encourage and inspire the next generation of Scientists and Doctors.

I enjoy listening to classical music and I am currently writing two books for children with others Scraggy’s Tale and Bebo the Hero. I enjoy giving talks to astronomy societies and schools.

What would you consider your greatest achievement in life so far?

Making contributions in research in Medicine and Astrophysics, and my work in ministry serving God’s people. I have over 100 publications in the fields of Medicine and Astrophysics and have patents in innovative Medical devices. My innovations have included a blood clot removal device for removing clots of blood from the arterial system of the brain that occur during stroke, and an innovative approach to treating cancer.

I also enjoy encouraging and helping young scientists in developing their careers through my continued voluntary supervision of undergraduate and masters research projects.