I take what I learned from my years working in diagnostic laboratories and make what I teach highly relevant


Helen Battersby smiles at the camera whilst outside in the sun

Before joining the School of Health at Leeds Beckett two years ago as a lecturer on the Biomedical Sciences courses, I worked as a registered clinical scientist in genomics with more than 13 years’ experience in the NHS. My specialism was in oncology, identifying genetic changes that had occurred in cancer cells. This information helps to diagnose and classify cancers into their specific types. We could then use this information to decide what the best treatment would be for that patient.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with the School of Health

My own undergraduate degree was in biomedical science, and I really enjoyed learning about all the diverse disciplines under this one topic. However, the modules that had the biggest impact on me were those taught by staff from the local hospital pathology department. This gave me a huge insight into the job of a healthcare scientist and brought all the theory I had learned into context. They were able to show me the impact they made to patients’ lives with real-life examples – it was fascinating and inspiring. This is something I aim to deliver to the students here at Leeds Beckett. I have always enjoyed teaching and training others throughout my career; joining the School of Health at Leeds Beckett University felt a logical progression. I take what I have learned from my years working in diagnostic laboratories and make what I teach highly relevant; ensuring students are equipped with the core knowledge they’ll need for their future careers. I also saw an opportunity to help bridge any skills gap that we see from an employer’s perspective. We’re looking for certain skills and knowledge to have been covered during a student’s time at university. Working here at Leeds Beckett I help to build in those skills employers are looking for and help give our biomedical sciences students an advantage.

What makes you passionate about your work around Biomedical Science and why is it important?

Chemotherapy is a very effective treatment against many cancer types, however, over time some cancer cells can develop resistance to that treatment, and it stops working. This means that some cancer patients can run out of treatment options, and eventually they succumb to their disease. My research is about identifying and understanding these resistance mechanisms that colorectal cancer cells develop to common chemotherapy treatments. Once we have a clearer picture of these mechanisms, we can use this information to monitor colorectal cancer patients and look for early signs their disease is advancing. This would mean that the treatment of colorectal cancer could be changed quickly when needed and would be tailored to an individual and would target their specific cancer cells. My work as a clinical scientist has shown me that there is a real need to have more treatment options for cancer patients. I am hoping that this research can add to the wealth of information that scientists have already unlocked about cancer and improve cancer survival for patients.

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

I have worked on many national, large-scale research projects performed within the NHS, and this has shown me that collaboration is often key to a successful outcome for the researchers and, ultimately, improving patient care. By working in collaboration with different disciplines, teams or institutions, not only have I become a better scientist, this has also helped projects run more efficiently, and led to more interesting and novel research opportunities. I have learnt a great deal from others sharing their experiences and knowledge, and whilst I am still in the early stages of my research here at Leeds Beckett, I hope that I can help to bring the School of Health into more collaborative projects with clinical researchers within the region. This I hope will not only directly benefit patient care but create unique opportunities for my own research and other learning opportunities for Leeds Beckett students.