Joanna Bridger is a Professor of Genome Organisation based in Biosciences in the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences. She is also the Director of the Centre for Genome Engineering and Maintenance (cenGEM).
After joining Brunel in 2000, Joanna set up her own independent laboratory - The Laboratory of Nuclear and Genomic Health - which is focussed on how our chromosomes are spatially organised, influenced and manipulated within their environment, the cell nucleus. She works on correcting or reversing abnormal chromosome behaviour in ageing, the premature ageing syndrome – Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, female cancers and in the host cells of specific pathogens. She recently assessed chromosome structure in cells that had been in space on the International Space Station.
When her daughter was 18 months, Joanna’s husband, who also worked at Brunel, became seriously ill and took early retirement so Joanna and her family moved away from Uxbridge to be closer to family for support. Joanna successfully applied for flexible working so she could continue working at Brunel and still have quality time with her family.
Before the pandemic, Joanna compressed her full-time hours into a four-day week, working from home on a Monday, and being on campus Tuesday through to Thursday. Friday then became housework day, with a bit of daytime TV for a brain-zone out, leaving the weekends free to try and be a “fun Mum”. She has been working like this for four years and says: “The Timetabling team were really great at arranging my teaching for the days I was on campus. I worked into the evening on campus, this had additional benefits since I had more students at a 5pm lecture than a morning one! I also got to spend more time with my tutees and doctoral researchers, particularly those undergrads that worked during the day and couldn’t visit during office hours. Also, this couldn’t have been possible without the support of certain lovely Brunel colleagues allowing me sleep in their spare rooms the nights I stayed over in Uxbridge.”
“When I worked 9am to 5pm five days a week, my days were full of meetings and it left little time to focus on my research. With longer days, I had the concentrated and quiet time to also write bids, publish papers and push forward my research. After 10 years of being a Reader, I have now been promoted to Professor. These compressed days really helped me to find the right balance to support and engage with my students and progress the lab’s research outputs and develop new projects."