Susan was not happy at Cambridge, where, for two years from 1912, she was attached to Newnham College. Compared to Manchester, she found it élitist and patriarchal. Her research project, a study of the use of imagery in spelling, was uninspiring, but she completed it over two years, and a peer-reviewed paper emerged from the findings. She was to carry out no further experimental work.
In 1914, she obtained a post as Mistress of Method in the Infant Department of Darlington Training College. Here she made an impression on her students as a gifted, inspiring, demanding teacher.
While at Manchester, Susan had begun a relationship with William Brierley, a brilliant botany student. They had many common interests. She had continued to visit him while at Cambridge and, during her year at Darlington, they decided to marry. At that time, it was not permitted for women to remain in employment after marriage, so in 1914 Susan resigned her job after a year. The couple lived in a suburb of Manchester for the first year of their married life, while they both worked in academic departments in the University there. Shortly after their marriage, war with Germany was declared and William enlisted. He was invalided out of the Army in 1916. In the meantime, he had been appointed to a post as a botanist in Kew Gardens. Shortly afterwards, in 1918, he was appointed Head of the Department of Mycology in the newly established agricultural research station in Rothamsted, Hertfordshire.