Dr Andrew Childs - Reproductive & Developmental Biology
Meet Dr Andrew Childs
What course do you teach on and what is your role?
MSC Reproductive and Developmental Biology - Module Leader (Gonads to Gametes) and Lecturer in Reproductive Endocrinology
How has your career led you to teaching?
While browsing dusty old journals in the university library trying to get some inspiration for a topic for a first year undergrad Genetics essay, I stumbled across a paper showing that a single gene (called DAZL) was a an essential regulator of sperm and egg production in species as diverse as flies and humans. At that early stage of my career, I found the concept that common molecular pathways could regulate fertility in diverse organisms to be a fascinating one, and led to a final year undergraduate research project characterising newly identified genes expressed in the testis. This was followed by a move to Edinburgh, to pursue MSc and PhD in the lab that discovered DAZL, working on one of the proteins DAZL regulates during the early stages of spermatogenesis, and subsequent postdoctoral training exploring how signals between different cell types in the developing ovary controls the formation of eggs during fetal life. It was during this research training that I started giving the occasional undergraduate lecture, and found I really enjoyed teaching and communicating science alongside undertaking active research into reproductive and developmental biology. In 2013 I moved back to London to take up a lectureship at the Royal Veterinary College, teaching genetics and reproductive and developmental biology, and establishing my own research group investigating gonadal development and gamete formation. In 2018, I joined the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial to continue our research work, and I now lead the Gonads to Gametes module of the College’s MSc in Reproductive and Developmental Biology, and oversee the teaching of development and aging for the Imperial MBBS undergraduate medical programme. Our research work is still focused on aspects of how DAZL regulates gametogenesis, and I often wonder where my career might have gone had I found a different paper for that essay, almost twenty years ago!
What aspect of the course do you enjoy teaching the most?
Supervising student research projects is very rewarding: as an early career researcher I benefited hugely from the support and mentorship of leading scientists in my field, and it's great to be able to pay their investment in me forward through training the next generation of scientists.
What do you hope your students will go on to achieve on completion of this course?
As well as a gaining an outstanding theoretical grounding in reproductive and developmental biology, the teaching and learning activities on the MSc in Reproductive and Developmental Biology are structured to develop students' transferable skills, including communication and critical thinking and analysis. This not only provides an excellent start for students to continue on a research career track, but also in a diverse array of careers including education, the pharmaceuticals and life sciences industry, allied medical careers such as biomedical science and embryology, and beyond.
What is your favorite part about teaching at Imperial College London?
Postgraduate-level teaching at Imperial enables us to work with a small group of highly-motivated students who are specifically interested in our field of research, and really communicate our interest and enthusiasm in the subject. Working with the same small group of students regularly over several months, you can see students' growing in confidence in their knowledge and ability (particularly with respect to transferable skills), and that's really rewarding.