Women’s History Month Profiles – Tabitha Blackwell

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Naomi Douglas and Chloe Poole (UBDSS), in collaboration with the ED&I Committee, asked some of our female staff to reflect on their careers, achievements, inspirations, and challenges they’ve overcome. This is just a small portion of the inspiring women that we work with at Bristol Dental School.

The next in our series is Tabitha Blackwell.

What advice would you give your student/younger self?
I would say work hard, keep your eyes open for opportunities, and learn from those around you. Some of the opportunities you get at University will be the most inspiring and important of your life. Don’t say no to them just because they might be scary, or challenging. My biggest challenge and opportunity at University was the option to take on a study abroad year in Australia. While leaving friends and family, and deciding to graduate a year later than everyone I’d started the degree with almost put me off, choosing to go was easily one of the best decisions I ever made. So yes, I’d tell my younger self to grab those opportunities even when your fear or insecurities might be telling you not to. It will always be worth it.

What’s the greatest achievement of your career so far?
One of my greatest achievements would probably be my recent publication in Molecular Ecology from my Masters research at Bristol. After completing the degree, I continued to collaborate with an external research team, which meant balancing this research with full time work. While it’s a seemingly small step along my career journey, it was a lot of hard work, and it’s good to acknowledge that and use it as a motivator to keep working hard and pushing myself.

Which women have inspired you in your career?
During my undergraduate studies, it was my personal tutor that became a huge inspiration to me. She was an active ecologist and lecturer, and managed to balance this with family life. She even gave birth to two of her children while conducting field research abroad! I’ve always been driven, but also family orientated, so knowing a balance can be found was hugely inspirational at that point of my career.
At the Dental School, I work with a number of inspiring women – both students and staff – that work hard to make education accessible, challenge inequality, and generally make the working environment at the School a positive one. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working here – and a lot of this is because of the amazing community of staff and students I get to work with day to day.

What have been the biggest challenges or triumphs for you during the pandemic? (at work or personally)
My biggest challenge has been feeling disconnected from my friends and family. I’ve realised how much I depend on my close family and friends for support, and how much they lift me to achieve and keep working hard. It has also been incredibly difficult not to be able to provide support to those family members and friends that I know sorely need it through these difficult times. Remote conversations are not always best when really there is nothing that can be ‘said’ to solve the problem or make them feel better – physical social interaction is so much more important than I think we ever gave it credit before. A simple hug goes a long way!
On a happier note, my biggest achievements during the pandemic has been finally publishing that paper, and adapting to remote working while trying to keep a balance between work and home life. It’s been really helpful during these difficult times to acknowledge both the bad and the good. There’s always a silver lining after all.

If you’d like to contribute to this blog series, simply email your answers (and an image of yourself) to ords-swan@bristol.ac.uk.

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