Passionate about livestock agriculture particularly pigs and poultry. Though not from a farming family, Helen’s childhood ambition was to be a farmer. When this was not possible she went to the University of Edinburgh on completing school to study animal science. It was here that she first came in contact with pigs. She quickly discovered that the intensive animal systems interested her the most, as these involved the greatest contact with animals and the opportunity to study the animal system.
On completing her studies in Edinburgh, Helen joined the Overseas Development Administration as a natural resources student. Sponsored by ODA she completed a Masters in Agricultural Development at the University of Reading and then went to work in lowland Bolivia. Here she worked with peasant farmers to improve village pig production. It was an eye opening experience. Her first visit to the peasant villages found most of the pigs to be suffering from foot and mouth disease, at that time a habitual problem there.
Subsequently she moved to Australia, working for nine years at the University of Melbourne, providing academic support to a Masters program for students from developing countries. In this role Helen was involved in all aspects of livestock production. Although based in Melbourne Helen toured widely with the students through northern Queensland studying extensive grazing systems and visiting research stations dedicated to developing solutions for the harsh conditions that exist for livestock in the arid tropics. In Melbourne she also had the opportunity to develop her research programme in the nutrition of broiler chickens.
Moving to Canada, she studied at the University of Alberta on a prestigious Canadian Commonwealth scholarship working with the great Frank Aherne and George Foxcroft. Working in Edmonton was something of a revelation since the pig facilities had been purpose built for research and were outstandingly good.
Completing her PhD on the nutrition of the periparturient sow in 1996, she was immediately offered a lectureship at the University of Leeds, where she made it her mission to build up pig research again.
Helen works extensively with the British pig industry most notably feed and supplier companies. With the pig facility working well, Helen has now turned back towards poultry and together with her students and staff has constructed a small layer facility with enriched cages and a broiler facility.
Helen has a vibrant research group working in the nutrition and production of both pigs and poultry. Her research group regularly produce exhibits reporting the results of their work at the Great Yorkshire Show and she has received regular research funding from YAS. In addition, for the past six years, she has been Head of the School of Biology and she is also Managing Director of Leeds University Farms. In 2011 she was made a Fellow of the Society of Biology.