Made in Bristol – Dr. Una Ryan ‘Bristol set me on a path for a lifelong career’

As part of the ‘Made in Bristol’ interview series, alumna and  U.S. Foundation Director Dr. Una Ryan reflects on her Bristol experience

Why did you choose Bristol?
At Bristol, I studied for a BSc in Zoology, with Chemistry and Microbiology as subsidiary subjects. I chose Bristol because it offered me an Open Exhibition based on merit, not need (in fact I was means-tested out of the financial benefits, so my gratitude to Bristol is not based on funding). I very much enjoyed my scholarship interview, I couldn’t answer any of the questions and was therefore asked to extemporize on how I would approach the problems presented. This became the basis for one of the interviewers later recommending me for a fellowship at Cambridge for my PhD.

How did the University experience influence you?

Bristol set me on a path for my life-long career. I now live in San Francisco and have spent a rewarding life in academia, the biotech industry, investing and as an artist. Always science was the muse, I have made discoveries, made medicines, made money and made art…. all based on the science I began at Bristol and developed further at Cambridge. So from saving many lives to decorating a few walls, Bristol was with me.

As a Foundation Director, you’ve chosen to stay closely connected to the University. Why?
I have remained in touch with Bristol out of gratitude and a wish to see others get the same start. My grandson will be a fresher this September

and I will be able to go back and visit him.

Any best memories?

I am not telling about my best memories!

Fair enough. And the future? For Bristol, that is.

I am delighted with the emphasis that Bristol has placed on being a civic university. I think the Temple Meads campus is thrilling and a wonderful meld of the future bond between academia and industry as well as a clear appreciation of Bristol’s roots.

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Dr. Una Ryan’s biography describes her as an executive, entrepreneur, board director, investor and artist. Yet somehow that doesn’t do her justice. The honors, for example. Since Una graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Science degree, she went on to Cambridge for her Ph.D. and has been cited for her research by the Howard Hughes organization, the American Heart Association and the United States National Institutes of Health. Over the past 12 years she received the Albert Einstein Award, the Cartier Award and the Economic Forum Tech Pioneer award, all for her work in biotechnology. They were preceded by her receiving the Order of the British Empire in 2002 from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Bristol caught up in 2009 with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Ryan — who resides in San Francisco, the only U.S. Foundation Director now based on America’s West Coast — has led a variety of public, private and non-profit companies. She’s currently on the boards of Cortexyme, RenovoRx and Elemental Machines, and a partner or director in the investment firms Breakout Ventures, Golden Seeds and Astia Angel. Somehow, she has also found the time to create art from her work in bioscience; you can find it online at www.uluxart.com.

 

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