Teresa Niccoli



I’m a group leader with a PhD in cell biology and a mom of two boys. In my lab we use the fruit fly as a model system to study dementia. 

Twitter: @NiccoliLab
Website: NiccoliLab.org

Teresa Niccoli

“It is possible to take a break to be a mom and resume an academic career.”

I found out I was pregnant with my first son 3 years into my first post-doc. I had decided many years before that I would take time off when I had children. A senior scientist and mom, who mentored me during my PhD studies, had told me she never regretted taking time off to look after her children; that always stayed with me, and I decided to do the same. Children grow up so fast, I wanted to spend time with them, plus I have never been brilliant at multi-tasking…

My perfect plan was to have 2 children and take 3 years off, but I was slightly naïve as to how much work looking after children can be, and that you can’t quite plan pregnancies to the minute! I ended up taking 5 years off before coming back to the lab, but I will never regret it.

I made some very good friendships with other moms whom I would never have met had I not been a stay-at-home mom. And for a while I had a different perspective in life, one where weekdays and weekends all pretty much look the same, where life is a little slower paced, and I spent most of my days with small children. 

I was however struggling with the lack of intellectual stimulation, so took a part-time Masters in Medical Ethics and Law at King’s College London, a really interesting and well-taught course, which allowed me to think about the wider ethical and legal implications of the science we do.

When I decided to go back to work, it took me a year to find a job. Having not been in employment, and especially, having no papers from my postdoc, made it harder. In the end, I was hired by Linda Partridge at the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL.

My kids are now both at senior school, life with teenagers offers different challenges but logistics are now much easier with both boys able to get themselves to school and back on their own.

I have also recently started up my own lab funded by an ARUK Senior Fellowship, so I can say that my career might have slowed down slightly but I’m where I wanted to be, running a small lab, trying to do good science and mentoring students. So it is possible to take a break to be a mom and resume an academic career!

catarina moreno