Pharmacologist in Phrame: Professor Jeanette Woolard

Interviewed by Dr Aisah Aubdool on 16th December 2022.

What inspired you to pursue an academic career?

I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree and an inspirational pharmacologist at Queen’s University (Canada) when Professor Michael Adams sparked my interest in cardiovascular pharmacology. A few meetings later, and I somehow found myself committed to a two-year master’s degree. There was no looking back after that.

How was your postgraduate education training in Cardiovascular Pharmacology?

My postgraduate training was both the most challenging experience and most fun of my life. I worked closely within my research team on complex in vivo haemodynamic models; it took huge commitment to develop my expertise and skills. Alongside this, I was part of a fantastic cohort of students, many of whom are lifelong friends.

How did you choose your PhD project and what did you enjoy the most during your PhD?

As an international student coming from Canada, I wanted to be in the UK. Nottingham had an excellent reputation in pharmacy and pharmacology and when I saw the position that was available it was aligned to the work I was looking to develop from my MSc. When I met the team, saw the campus and walked around the city, I knew it was the perfect fit.

Did you have a role model who influenced your decision to work in science, specialising in pharmacology?

Initially, probably my parents. My dad had a PhD in chemistry; my mum was a pharmacist. Pharmacology sits nicely somewhere in that mix! Prof Michael Adams at Queen’s University has a love and enthusiasm for teaching and research – that hugely influenced my direction of travel. There are so many others along the road who have made it interesting and collaborative.

What would you consider your greatest achievement so far?

In 2019, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Drug Discovery and Team Science. This has opened doors for some fantastic new scientists, including pharmacologists, to venture through, working alongside medicinal chemists, clinicians, physiologists, mathematicians, bioinformaticians and other members of our academic and industrial communities. It’s been wonderful to be part of this community.

What is your secret of success in science?

I had a rather ‘slow start’ to my academic career, having taken time out early on to focus on my children. Any successes I have enjoyed come from working with like-minded colleagues, celebrating successes and commiserating failures and finding humour in some of life’s challenges.

Tell us about your current research.

Some of our work has focussed on elucidating the molecular pharmacology of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) isoforms and VEGFR2 receptors, where we use in vitro (NanoBRET) approaches to monitor ligand/receptor interactions and in vivo (Doppler flowmetry) methods to monitor regional haemodynamic changes and interrogate the mechanisms underlying the hypertensive actions of receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, particularly those that inhibit VEGF.

How important are animal models in pharmacological research? 

We all have a commitment to reduction, refinement and replacement of animals in research. However, there are some important scientific questions where animal models are the only means to clearly, and safely, provide important answers. These models allow us to better understand normal physiology as well as disease states, accelerate our technological advancements and develop our knowledge of existing and new drug targets. Of course, animals must only be used when necessary.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?

I enjoy spending time with friends and family. My son started university this year, which means my poor daughter is stuck spending more time with me! We enjoy going for walks in the Derbyshire Peak District, followed by a meal out with friends.

What are on your thoughts on mentorship and how would you choose a mentor? 

I have had fantastic mentorship throughout my career. When I was first appointed as a Lecturer in Nottingham, Prof Sheila Gardiner supported me for many years, followed on by Prof Steve Hill and Profs Janice Marshall and Steve Watson. What made for good mentorship for me was finding someone who I could connect with, but who also challenged me to ask questions of myself. Having mentors outside of my institution was helpful as they brought a different perspective.

How do you balance your roles as an educator and researcher?

I think these roles go ‘hand-in-hand’. As an educator, I can bring aspects of my research to my teaching role. As a researcher, I often learn new perspectives from the students, even on my own research area. There are times in the year when I know my focus needs to be on one role more than the other; the key is to ensure those around me are aware and still supported.

What would be your advice for the next generation of early-career researchers and New Starting Investigators? 

Don’t try and do it on your own! It’s impossible to be the expert of everything - far more feasible to build collaborations and pull together a more impactful team.

How did you get more involved with diversity and inclusion in academia?

I found things quite challenging when I was starting out as a post-doc and deciding whether the timing was right to start a family. Academia is much more flexible and supportive, but I always wanted to get involved to help facilitate and make working in academia possible for anyone. It started with supporting the Athena SWAN initiative and grew from there.

What are your top tips for networking?

I am quite introverted and find networking difficult. Early on in my career, a mentor sent me into a room at a conference and said: ‘Don’t come back until you have spoken to five people’. It was a horrible experience, but I am still in contact with several of those colleagues. To this day, I try to sit at a table with colleagues I don’t know well at conference meals. The results have been fantastic. 

Who do you admire the most in the world of pharmacology?

There are so many, it is difficult to choose. At Pharmacology 2022, I sat at the conference meal with Mike Jarvis, an industrial pharmacologist with huge insights into translational pharmacology. He was incredibly approachable, sharing insights and providing leadership and support regarding ASPET, BPS and PR&P – the interaction has continued.

Rapid-Fire Round with Professor Jeanette Woolard:

  • Favourite Movie? Coach Carter
  • Favourite Scientist? RF Furchgott
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury
  • Tea or Coffee? Coffee
  • In vitro or in vivo? In vivo


Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
 Security code

If you are a British Pharmacological Society member, please sign in to post comments.

Back to Homepage

Published: 04 May 2023

About the author

Aisah Aubdool 

Aisah graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology before gaining her PhD in 2014 from King’s College London, under the mentorship of Professor Susan D Brain. Aisah moved to William Harvey Research Institute in 2016 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Professor Adrian Hobbs. Aisah’s research focuses on studying the role of C-type natriuretic peptide in vascular remodelling and aortic aneurysms.

Aisah joined the British Pharmacological Society in 2010 and is currently the regional Ambassador coordinator for London. She is also the Vice Chair of the IUPHAR Young Investigator Committee, as well as a member of the Pharmacology Matters Editorial Board and the Public Engagement and Policy Committee at the British Pharmacological Society.

Jeanette Woolard 

My main areas of research focus are related to cardiovascular physiology and molecular pharmacology, with a particular focus on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). I head one of the few laboratories in the world able to monitor cardiovascular haemodynamics in three different vascular beds using Doppler flowmetry in conscious rats. This allows us to interrogate complex regionally specific pharmacology whilst also monitoring heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure. This has been applied to understand cardiovascular safety in drug discovery, but also to unravel detailed regionally-selective pharmacology of key receptor agonists and antagonists. I am also currently applying novel waveform analyses to expand the information available from both Doppler and telemetry studies. I am involved in several collaborative projects using NanoBRET to monitor ligand binding to both GPCRs and RTKs in real time in model cell systems, and we are currently expanding this work to CRISPR/Cas9 genome edited primary cells (vascular endothelial cells). I have been involved in developing novel fluorescent ligands to study VEGFR2 (with Promega) and NanoBRET approaches to monitor target engagement of GPCRs in tumours in vivo (with Monash University). 
This has allowed me to secure major external research grants and helped me to develop important collaborative links with industry (AZ, Promega, Heptares, Medicines Discovery Catapult) and establish major international collaborations research groups in Europe, USA and Australia. I am a co-applicant on an MRC programme grant and director of Wellcome Trust four-year PhD programme on Drug Discovery and Team Science. Finally, I am the Nottingham lead for a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions ITN INSPIRE: (INnovation in Safety Pharmacology for Integrated cardiovascular safety assessment to REduce adverse events and late stage drug attrition). 
From Jan 2021, I am the Nottingham Director of the Centre of Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE) having served as Deputy Director of COMPARE in Nottingham since its foundation. I have been awarded a fellowship by the British Pharmacological Society (2020), and the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal (2020) from the University of Nottingham for my work on Team Science. As Deputy Director for COMPARE, I established a summer placement scheme to award undergraduate students from all backgrounds a grant to work in labs in either Nottingham or Birmingham as part of my Team Science initiative. This has given postdoctoral researchers the chance to gain valuable supervisory experience and promoted the COMPARE research area to undergraduates.

Related Pages