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"The confidence will come back" with Tzany Kokalova Wheldon

Career Returners Podcast – Episode #6

14th April 2021

Dr Tzany Kokalova Wheldon enjoyed an impressive early career in academia, gaining a doctorate in Natural Sciences and working in nuclear physics in Germany. Following the tragic loss of her unborn son at 5 months, a harrowing experience that Tzany describes as shaping her life going forwards, she decided to take an extended career break after the birth of her twin boys a few years later, so that she could dedicate time to being with them during their early years. 

When her boys were 3, she decided the time was right to return to her career but found that the gap in her CV meant that she kept getting pipped at the post at the final round. Her bridge back came in the form of the Daphne Jackson Fellowship, a 2-year part-time programme supporting researchers to return to work after a career break.

Today, Tzany is a Reader in Nuclear Physics and works as Director of the Positron Imaging Centre at the University of Birmingham. In 2020, she won a Timewise Power Returner Award, celebrating her ability to combine career success at a senior level with working flexibly.  “The biggest thing is to show that even after a three and a half year career break, you can go back to lead, lead the field, and do research like the colleagues around you”

Hear how Tzany found her way back to her career as a nuclear physicist, balancing time to be with her precious boys with leading once again in her field, as well as helping other women return to their careers in science.  

Episode Resources

Find out more about the Daphne Jackson Fellowships

For support with baby loss at any stage of pregnancy: Tommy’s

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For advice, support, opportunities, and connection, look around our Women Returners website