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Professor Nicola Lowe

Professor Nicola Lowe

Nicola Lowe is the Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Her role takes her around the world and involves a combination of research and projects which seek to improve the health of communities affected by malnutrition, while inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Nicola’s background

As a child, Nicola had a keen interest in science, naturally drawn towards a subject which delivers answers – if you want a result, you investigate and are provided with an outcome. Opting for biology, chemistry and physics at GCSE level, her scientific family helped enhance her passion. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Applied Zoology at Bangor University in 1987, followed by a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry at Liverpool University in 1991.

UCLan 

At UCLan, Nicola teaches first and third year nutrition students, as well as at postgraduate and PhD level. Outside the classroom, she is involved in a range of research programmes and projects.

As chair of Zinc-Net, a four year programme funded by the European Commission, Nicola oversees the collaboration of over 50 senior scientists from 27 countries working in the field of zinc and human health, co-ordinating training for young scientists via the exchange of knowledge between laboratories.

She is also part of the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group, which works to improve the health of people affected by zinc deficiency, by bringing together scientists from the academic world and organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Her advisory role relates to all aspects of zinc nutrition, and she designs research with the aim of providing evidence to show the effectiveness of interventions in developing country settings. “It’s important work, which can often be made more difficult due to infrastructure and political circumstances,” she says.

Nicola’s own research into micro nutrient deficiencies links in with the work of the Abaseen Foundation. The foundation works with the Khyber Medical University to undertake projects seeking long term solutions to chronic malnutrition in Pakistan, in relation to zinc, iron, iodine and selenium. It’s a project which Nicola has been involved with for the past 10 years, incorporating quantitative and qualitative research, finding out about barriers for optimum nutrition and looking at the impact on school meals on cognitive development. In 2010, the project won the British Council International Collaboration award.


Quote 66 

“In my experience, at an academic level, the ratio of male to female students seems to be fairly balanced. However once you get to career level, I think that’s where a gap begins to develop and where I feel men dominate.

“This could be something to do with the lack of female role models. When you think of scientists in the media and on television, you might think of Brian Cox for example – and male scientists seem to receive lots of exposure. But it’s harder to think of female scientists who receive the same amount.”

Quote 99 


Women in STEM

On the issue of whether STEM subjects are less appealing to females, Nicola offers an alternative perspective. “In my experience, at an academic level, the ratio of male to female students seems to be fairly balanced. However once you get to career level, I think that’s where a gap begins to develop and where I feel men dominate.

“This could be something to do with the lack of female role models. When you think of scientists in the media and on television, you might think of Brian Cox for example – and male scientists seem to receive lots of exposure. But it’s harder to think of female scientists who receive the same amount.”

UCLan’s ongoing campaign to promote women in STEM includes posters featuring six of the University’s female academic role models, produced in relation to the Athena Swan Bronze award which recognises commitment towards advancing women’s roles in STEM. The poster featuring Professor Lowe refers to her love of travelling, showing how people can combine a successful career in STEM with personal interests and hobbies.

“My work takes me far and wide, so I do get to see a lot of the world, which I enjoy. I also try to take a break and travel with my family, preferably somewhere nice and warm!”