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Dr Sara Burton

As Senior Lecturer and microbial ecologist, Dr Sara Burton has worked at universities and in industry; moreover, roles within the Microbiology Society have allowed her to support and develop microbiology education internationally. Biosciences student employability enhancement and teaching laboratory design and delivery have been amongst her varied education roles.
University of Exeter
Job Title
Senior Lecturer

Dr Sara Burton grew up in rural Oxfordshire, which was a world away from the University of Oxford, where she took up a technician post for one year before completing A levels. By then, because of her exposure to research, she was clear that she wanted to study Applied Biology and undertake impactful ecological research. Her sandwich study year from the University of Bradford afforded her huge experience within an internationally prestigious culture collection – National Collection of Industrial Marine Bacteria Ltd – and her research was published before her graduation.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance after graduation was a priority for Sara and so her next move was to a Cardiff University spin out company Biotal Ltd., with an agricultural focus. After four years working as a research technician she moved to Devon and started her PhD in plant molecular biology (DNA replication studies), a bold change in direction to molecular biology. Sara’s PhD allowed her to work in the USA for several visits of a few weeks which was in itself a huge education. Completion of her PhD and working part-time, she started to teach and be part of professional development teams.

After a three-year career break for motherhood, which brought numerous new challenges, Sara was determined to get involved in HE again, as an Associate Lecturer in The Open University, she learnt to teach and be a tutor. Her return to work at the University of Exeter was possible through a gradual increase in family friendly working hours as her sons grew up which allowed her to move into lecturing and education focused areas, especially microbial ecology. After approximately 10 years while concurrently supporting the Exeter Microbial Ecology Research Group (largely industrially funded) and teaching, Sara’s position was formalised as a Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in Microbiology.

Sara enjoys tutoring and takes enormous pride in the ongoing achievements of her tutees and the research students that she mentored. Sara considers education as powerful in bringing cohesion within international groups and changing the lives of those around us.

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