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Women in Science

Samira did a degree in genetics at UCL. She moved to Oxford to do a DPhil. After a few years postdoctoral research she took eight months maternity leave to have a baby. She won a four year BHF Fellowship, and since returning to work also won a grant from the Medical Research Council.

Portrait of Samira Lakhal-Littleton© Women in Science


at the time of the interview - December 2014

Samira is a Junior Group Leader and British Heart Foundation Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellow, in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. She has a son aged three. 

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - December 2014

Samira grew up in an academic family in Algeria, and was encouraged to work hard. In 2000 she was awarded a national baccalaureate scholarship which enabled her to come to the UK for her BSc in Human Genetics at University College, London. This scholarship is awarded to those ranking in the top 10 in the country grade-wise. She then went on to do a DPhil at Oxford. Samira studied the role of iron metabolism and how that relates to our immune responses. She then had a four year postdoctoral position, looking at the interplay between iron and oxygen homeostasis. During this time she learnt many new techniques.

I very much believe in in going for opportunities and not waiting to be encouraged. I think that is key. So I’ve never waited to be encouraged ... I’ve always felt that it was best to apply for something too early than not to apply for it at all

Then Samira decided that she ought to move to another lab so that she could develop new ideas and start her own projects. She took another two year postdoc job in a new lab in Oxford, and at the same time wrote a research proposal, and was awarded a four year British Heart Foundation Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellowship, which enabled her to start her own lab.

Before starting her new work Samira had a baby, and took eight months maternity leave. When she returned to work her baby was cared for by staff in the University crèche, which was excellent. More recently her son has moved to a nursery nearer to her home.

Since returning to work and taking up the Fellowship, Samira has also written another grant proposal and has obtained a four year grant from the Medical Research Council. This has enabled her to support more junior colleagues and broaden the scope of her research. Her main interest is iron metabolism, and how the regulation of iron balance in the body affects various biological systems, such as the heart, placenta, brain or skeletal muscle.

Samira also teaches, runs tutorials and supervises students in her own lab. All this work leaves little time for other activities, such as hobbies, but she loves her work and is proud that her research is changing our understanding of iron metabolism.