Professor Stanley is Emeritus Professor of Epithelial Biology in the University of Cambridge. She attended the Universities of London, Bristol and Adelaide, is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. She has a lifetime award for contribution to research on cervical cancer and cervical precancers from the American Society for Colposcopy and Cytopathology  (ASCCP).

She has served on several Research Council committees and was a member of the Biology and Biotechnology Science Research Council from 2000-2003. She was a member of the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee that advised the UK government on prion diseases (mad cow disease) and in 2004 was awarded the OBE for services to Virology. 

She is a research scientist and her research has focussed on how the body defends itself against infections with HPV (human papillomavirus) the cause of cervical cancer in women, how to develop vaccines that prevent HPV infection as well as those that might treat HPV infection and has more than 200 publications on these topics.