International Women’s Day: celebrating women on campus


International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a globally recognised day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

To mark the occasion, we’re profiling some of the many accomplished women based at York Biotech Campus (YBC) and finding out about their career highlights and greatest achievements.

Nicola Kingswell, Labskin

As Head of Laboratories for Labskin, a leading skincare testing company, Nicola oversees all projects, from Labskin production (growing its 3D skin), through to delivery of testing reports for clients.

“Being part of Labskin’s growth as a company has certainly been a career highlight for me. It’s been a pleasure to build our strong team here (which keeps on building!) and lead on the numerous space expansions we’ve had at YBC.

“Gaining my doctorate really stands out to me as a greatest achievement. I went to do my PhD 10 years after graduating and it took me eight years to complete (three years full-time in the lab, five years writing up whilst working full time, training as Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) study director and building a new team – it was quite full on!) It makes me smile so much to see Dr before my name.”

Nicola Spence, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Nicola is the UK’s Chief Plant Health Officer. Her main role is to advise about risks posed by plant pests and diseases, and to then ensure measures are in place to mitigate them. She also leads the operational response in the event of a plant pest or disease outbreak in the UK.

“If I were to choose a career highlight, it would be leading the development and delivery of the first Great British (GB) Plant Biosecurity Strategy, which essentially outlined GB’s approach to plant biosecurity over the six years from 2014-2020. A new strategy is set to be published this year, and is something I’m very proud to be part of.

“In terms of my biggest achievement, I would have to pick receiving a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list in 2022 for my services to plant health. To be recognised on such a scale is really quite special.”

Liz Cashon, York Biotech Campus

As campus innovation manager at York Biotech Campus, Liz’s role varies from promoting lab and office space available onsite, to managing new leases, to looking after the current occupiers and handling any expansions they need.

 “My career highlight is transforming the campus into the place it is today. When I joined in 2015, my aim was to expand the types of businesses based onsite from a limited number of government associations to a wider range of bioscience organisations, which we’ve successfully done. The icing on the cake was then leading our rebrand to reflect this shift, changing our name from the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) to York Biotech Campus in 2020, alongside launching a vibrant new visual identity and website.

“Gaining my Chartered Surveyor status this year has certainly been my biggest achievement. It’s been a personal goal of mine since I started working at the campus and was an extremely difficult thing to do whilst juggling other responsibilities, so to accomplish it was very rewarding.”

Katie Edwards, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP)

Katie is HR manager at CHAP, a UK Agri-Tech Centre that brings together experts to drive research and innovation for crop systems. She is responsible for all human resource related activities for CHAP, from recruitment, learning and development to HR strategy, and plays an integral part to help colleagues understand CHAP’s vision and values.

“I haven’t always been HR manager at CHAP, so my career highlight has to be my journey to getting to this position. I’m lucky to have been involved from the early days, and as the company has evolved, so has my role.

“Last year, we went through our biggest recruitment drive to date, seeing us doubling in size. I essentially guided this, which included appointing some very high-profile senior positions, all during the pandemic. As a newly appointed HR manager, it was a big challenge but a fantastic opportunity for personal growth and I would consider it a great achievement. I also managed to complete all of my Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) HR qualifications at the same time!”