Dr Patel awarded Elsie Widdowson Fellowship to support research after maternity


Dr Asha Patel with her child

Dr Asha Patel has been successful in her application for an Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award to support her research on return from maternity leave.

Dr Asha Patel was awarded the the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award during her maternity leave and is already seeing the benefits it brings to her work life balance as she returns to the lab. The fellowship allows academic staff to concentrate fully on their research upon returning from maternity, adoption, surrogacy and/or shared parental leave. It provides funds that allow the Department to put in place support to relieve the academic of teaching or administrative duties in order to concentrate fully on their research. Dr Patel is a lecturer in Cell and Gene Therapy with the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), her research looks to develop nucleic acid based therapeutics.

"The fellowship will support me to develop strategies to ensure I can navigate through this period of adjustment, giving me a better chance of successfully building my research whilst managing a family" Dr Asha Patel

I spoke to Asha about what the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship would mean for her and her family.

How did you find out about the fellowship?

I was made aware of the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship after meeting with Human Resources who also passed on other useful information including new parent coffee mornings which can now be attended virtually. The NHLI were extremely supportive of my proposal and I was encouraged to apply by both my line manager and our Head of Department, Professors Saglani and Chilvers. 

How will the award benefit your career?

The fellowship will accelerate my return to research, during maternity leave I was awarded two grants and the fellowship will give me protected time to focus on initiating these projects. When my maternity leave ended, I quickly had to begin a new way of working to balance my career with family life. The fellowship will support me to develop strategies to ensure I can navigate through this period of adjustment, giving me a better chance of successfully building my research whilst managing a family. As an early career lecturer, this fellowship will be critical for me to maintain momentum during my probationary period.

How has the award benefited you personally?

This scheme has improved my outlook on raising a family whilst working at Imperial College London. The provision of the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award has made me feel that the College supports and promotes work life balance, and I feel better prepared to take on this challenge. 

What is your research about?

My research interests are to explore nucleic acid based approaches to treat respiratory disease. Drawing on expertise in stem cell differentiation, materials synthesis and pharmaceutical chemistry, my group aims to facilitate RNA delivery to desired cell populations and engineer gene constructs to control pharmacokinetics. 

What would you say to anyone considering applying for the fellowship?

The Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award is available to academic staff taking parental leave and offers flexible support so that the returning staff member can focus on their research. I would encourage anyone considering applying to consider how the funding would best suit their needs, and discuss this with their line manager and Head of Department. There are example case studies which showcase the flexibility of how the award can be put into action.

Find out more about the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award and how to apply.


Ms Helen Johnson

Ms Helen Johnson
National Heart & Lung Institute

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6843
Email: helen.johnson@imperial.ac.uk

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