My name is Fiona Sewell and I’m head of toxicology at the NC3Rs and that’s the UK National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.

I think I’ve always enjoyed science. I particularly enjoyed biology and chemistry and so chose them to do A-level and then, when I came to decide what to do at university, I knew I wanted to do science. I wasn’t particularly sure what exactly so I chose a broad degree in biomedical sciences. I was particularly interested in medicine and how the body works and disease processes.

I lead the NC3Rs toxicology programme of work and what that involves is looking at how we can reduce, refine and replace the use of animals as part of safety assessments. We work with industry and regulators to look at how we can refine those studies that do use animals. Testing in animals is a requirement for many sectors in order to register new medicines, for example, or to market pesticides or industrial chemicals and much of that testing has been based on studies and information that were decided 40, 50 years ago and we now have a lot more information and knowledge that we can use to refine how we do things.

One of the most exciting aspects of my work is the opportunity to meet and work with lots of different people from different industries and disciplines as well as the opportunity to travel and I’ve been lucky enough to travel all around the world and present our work at different conferences. We’ve been to Brazil, China, America and Europe to present to international conferences to get our messages and recommendations across.

What I would say to people who are considering toxicology as a career is that there are so many options to consider. It covers multiple disciplines and different topics and the Covid pandemic has really raised the profile of scientists in general and there’s lots of funding and opportunities available right now so, yeah, definitely something to consider and look into.

First published 2023