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Department of Pharmacology


An Interview with Dr Janet Kumita


Dr Janet Kumita is a Group Leader in the Department of Pharmacology who was recently awarded a highly prestigious MRC Career Development Fellowship. Originally from Canada, Janet started her research career studying for a PhD in chemistry at the University of Toronto.


Janet then moved to the University of Cambridge, Department of Chemistry after being awarded a NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Janet spent many successful years in the Department of Chemistry as a Senior Research Associate and in 2020 she joined us at the Department of Pharmacology.

Who are you and what do you work on?

My name is Janet Kumita and I am an MRC Career Development Award Fellow and new Group Leader in the Department. I am a protein chemist studying the mechanisms of protein self-assembly, such as amyloid formation in protein misfolding diseases and the role of biomolecular condensates in protein degradation pathways.


What do you love about your job?

That my co-workers are all just as nerdy and enthusiastic about science as me!


How/why did your research lead you to Cambridge?

Being from Canada, Cambridge UK was not an obvious choice. During my PhD, I was a peptide chemist investigating methods to photocontrol peptide structures - when some of my peptides aggregated into fibrils, I became interested in this process and familiar with the work of the late Prof. Sir Chris Dobson. Chris supported my NSERC postdoctoral fellowship application in 2003. That award initiated the most incredible 16 years with the Dobson group, but even more exciting, it paved the way to my new research directions here in the Pharmacology Department.


Other than science what is most important for you in life?

The happiness and health of my family


Do you have any advice to early-career women scientists?

Do not let the fear of "failure" stop you from doing things. Failure should be defined as "not succeeding YET". Just go and try that experiment that has a slim chance of working or apply to that fellowship/grant/job. You may not be successful (at first) but you will learn, adapt and eventually get to where you want to be.


Did you have to face any hurdles as a woman in science?

Yes - but having done so means that I can contribute to removing those hurdles for the future generation of female scientists.


What/Who first sparked your interest in Science?

When I was 10 yrs old, I was fascinated with stars and learned about the constellations. I think that's when I decided Science was my favourite subject.


When did you decide to become a research scientist?

I don't think I ever decided, it just sort of happened as I progressed through my undergrad and postgrad degrees.


Why is science fun?

Because despite your best hypotheses and what you want the answers to be, the data is always the data - coming up with plausible explanations is the ultimate puzzler's challenge!


What and when was the last experiment you did in the lab?

I confess - I LOVE lab work and I'm in there every day that I can be.


If you were to choose a laboratory superpower what would it be?

Lightning fast reading abilities with instant recall of all the facts


What are your weaknesses and strengths?

I'm a constant worrier - but on the bright side, I'm also an eternal optimist who is resilient and has a lot of excess energy.


What female scientist do you most admire and why?

Too many to name - but I thank them all for overcoming challenges and barriers that have improved my life as a female scientist.


How do you relax?

Cross stitching, Baking


How would you like to be remembered?

For being a kind, supportive and hard-working supervisor, mentor and colleague.