Dr. Sara Molesworth-Kenyon
Dr. Molesworth-Kenyon was born in Liverpool, England, grew up in Wiltshire. She knew from a young age that she wanted to study viruses. So, she went into her A1 courses where she ultimately ended up failing them and had to go back and repeat school for a year. After graduating she moved on to university to pursue a career in Microbiology. During her time there she worked for SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where she published her first research paper. Graduating with honors, she pursued and received her Ph.D. at Bristol University researching Epstein Barr Virus. She received a 3-year fellowship to continue her research at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and made the decision to stay in America. She then moved on to the University of Alabama, becoming a research associate there for 5 years researching Herpes Simplex Virus. She decided for there that she had learned enough to apply for a faculty position and run a research lab, focusing on the same virus, at the University of West Georgia. Dr. Molesworth has defied the odds by not only being a women with a Ph.D. in a STEM major but doing this and having a family as well. She is married with a 10 year old son and a 7 year old daughter.
Kiana: What are the main things that you associate with success?
Molesworth-Kenyon: Actually, it’s the success of my children. If my children are successful. If my children are polite, warm, loving people when they grow up, I will have been successful. That’s the first thing. If I’m talking about work success, then it’s when students come to me and say “I enjoyed your course,” that’s that most successful thing for me.
Kiana: What were your biggest motivations/obstacles when pursuing your career?
Molesworth-Kenyon: After that big failure what pushed me to go back was I was still really interested in that topic and the only way to study and learn about virology was to get a degree. You just couldn’t do it and I knew I wanted to work in a lab with viruses. And I had no choice so I just had to suck it up and go back to school and buckle down. And I had a death in the family which caused the failure. So I had to grieve and come to terms with the death of my father and move on with my life. With the support of my family I was able to move forward and eventually get my degree.
Kiana: What advice would you give to young, female biologists pursuing any career path and balancing wanting a family and a career?
Molesworth-Kenyon: It’s hard work. You don’t get anything free in life, okay. But do not stop reaching for those goals. There’s a phase that some wrote in one of my year books and its “shoot for the moon even if you fail you will fall amongst the stars” and I will always remember that. It means shoot for your highest goal, always strive towards that, and you will, even if you don’t quite get there, you will still be somewhere that’s really good. And for females, its strange that we’re still, in 2016, addressing this as a female issue. I would say just reach your own potential don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. You’re just as good as anyone else. So do it. A lot of careers are very flexible around you having a family. Work, life, balance. There is so much support out there for women in science, so don’t overlook it. There are plenty of places out that want you because you are a women, so remember that.