|Science| |WiRe World|

It’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

However, we’re at WIRE are celebrating ace research by women in science every single day: We’re blown away by Kornelia’s efforts in tackling ovarian cancer by utilizing the so-called SPOCK1 protein as well as Joana’s attempts to better monitor wildfires in tropical ecosystems form above the ground via satellites. Carla’s efforts as an experimental petrologist to better understand what happens pressure-wise deep down underneath volcanoes are stunning. Also we’re amazed by Madalina’s important insights into nature narratives and why, in the context of climate change, there is an urgency to reflect on how nature and gender are narrated in our medicalized, patriarchal societies.

Dr Kornélia Baghy, molecular biologist and cancer researcher, expert in ovarian cancer research. © Kornélia Baghy

1. Kornélia what or who was your inspiration to start your pathway into the sciences?

I’ve wanted to become a biologist since I was four. I was obsessed with nature, with watching TV programs and read about wildlife. David Attenborough was/is my favorite. I wanted to do the same, to observe animals and describe their behavior around the world. The beauty of nature inspired me to become a biologist. The molecular biology came later, and its complexity was captivating.

2. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today. Were there any surprises along the way?

As I’ve always loved biology I had it as a specialty in high school, then I went with the flow. At university we studied everything from plant physiology to ecology. I preferred molecular biology and was good at it. For me, cancer research combines the utilization of molecular biology with the pursuit of improving a global healthcare issue. It felt right to take that path. As I was really interested, I looked for a place to do research as a graduate student. A friend of mine suggested to visit their lab focusing on the role of extracellular matrix proteoglycans in cancer. I obtained my MSc and PhD degrees there. Over the years, my lab became a second family for me, the most inspiring and supporting place I could ever have dreamed of.  It was 18 years ago, and I am still working together with my (ex)supervisor Prof. Dr. Ilona Kovalszky, and that means something. The way to where I am at the moment,  was smooth for a long time, getting the degrees, attending conferences, giving talks, publishing, getting grant etc. My days were busy and full of science. Then came the family life, a totally new situation that felt like a jump into the unknown. With it came the days without research, as I had neither time nor energy for that. As science changes rapidly, the biggest surprise was how difficult it is to stay up-to-date in the field. In parallel, the mental overload that comes with family leaves much less brain-capacity for thinking about research. In the meantime, there were opportunities that I had to pass, these decisions were not easy at all. Right now, I obtained a WiRe fellowship and I’m in the re-accelerating phase regarding my work, applying for funding again and collecting motivated people for projects. The journey of being a mom with all its emotional boost and chaos however resulted in a more mature person, which in fact will have beneficiary effects on my work.

3. What tips would you give to girls looking to follow in your footsteps?

I would say to anyone, go for it, if you really mean it. If there is enthusiasm, will and possibility, being a researcher is a great choice. And I would suggest choosing the supervisor, colleagues, and labs carefully. Choose one that inspires you, teaches you, lets you think, and lets you make mistakes. Never stay at a place where you do nothing else but manual labor. Another important thing to keep in mind is that it is absolutely okay to feel the want for a family and live for them for a while. You will lose time? Yes. Will the male colleagues get ahead of you? Yes. Will they always be ahead? No. It is only a matter of time, and that is a comforting thought. If you really want to stay in the academic field and be successful, be passionate and follow your heart. Without passion, research remains just another job.

Dr Joana Nogueira Brockmeyer, ecologist specialized in wildfire monitoring. © Joana Nogueira Brockmeyer

1. Joana, what or who was your inspiration to start your pathway into the sciences?

Since I was a child, I love nature. I always enjoyed watching documentaries about explorers in different parts of the world. During high school, I found Biology very fascinating and after reading about the undergraduate course, I wanted to become a researcher in some area of Biology. 

2. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today. Were there any surprises along the way?

In my bachelor’s course in Biology, a teacher told us how the vegetation of the Brazilian savannas, the biome in which I lived, is shaped by drought and fire. I found this so interesting, that I went to study the functioning of some plants under drought conditions. But I soon realized that droughts and fire are connected events and difficult to detect in the field when they happen. That’s why we have satellites as tools that can basically see everything at any time and place. Hence I went to get more satellite knowledge from fire experts, doing my PhD in France. Afterwards I worked in a Fire Monitoring Program to provide better fire information to help firefighters and environmental agents on managing fire and maintaining the biodiversity. Now I am a researcher at University of Münster (www.wwu.de) exploring the diversity of fire features in different vegetation types in tropical ecosystems.

During my scientific career, I had many “surprises”. Not to mention technical problems or unforeseen situations that compromise research work, or even the prejudice against women in science that often make you doubt yourself, I can fortunately say that I found wonderful surprises: people who supported me and guided me in good ways  🙂

3. What tips would you give to girls looking to follow in your footsteps?

I would say to the girls to be curious, interested in reading and learning a lot. To experience new things / opportunities that are an intellectually challenging task. Try to find good mentors and colleagues who bring a positive feeling of togetherness, support and good advice. And above all, aim high and don’t underestimate yourself because you are capable of everything  😉 Check out more here!

Dr Carla Tiraboschi in here lab at the University of Münster. © WIRE / Nikolaus Urban

1. Carla, what or who was your inspiration to start your pathway into the sciences?

My mom inspired me to be a scientist. She is a math and physics teacher and she has always motivated me to be curious and to never stop learning. Her attitude towards her job shaped my interest for science and made me a researcher.

2. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today. Were there any surprises along the way?

I am an experimental petrologist, which means that I perform experiments to reproduce the conditions of pressure and temperature present in the interior of our planet since (unfortunately) we cannot go directly there to sample. To do that I spend most of the time in the Institute’s basement, where all the experimental equipment is located. Looking back at my first years as Geology student this is quite funny, as back then I often pictured myself working on top of volcanoes, surrounded by nature.

But life can be very ironic and even though I am far from real volcanoes, studying what does happen underneath them, to me is way more exciting!


3. What tips would you give to girls looking to follow in your footsteps?

I would say to never underestimate how resourceful women are.

Being a researcher is a stressful job and can be tough on your self-esteem, for instance, when you got a grant rejected or fail a job interview. So my tip is to surround yourself by people that care about you and even when you feel like crap, will remind you how awesome you are.

Dr Madalina Stefan.© Madalina Stefan

1. Madalina, what or who was your inspiration to start your pathway into the sciences?
It was my grandmother Elisabeta. She was one of the first women to study in Romania and it was her who enrolled me at the German Kindergarten in Bucharest, read Mihai Eminescu to me, took me to Günter Grass´ Blechtrommel at the theatre, visited exhibitions to see Corneliu Baba´s paintings and played Schubert´s Impromptus to me, while I was growing up under a communist dictatorship where all these things were not precisely appreciated. Today she is 97 years old and since she has always supported the idea of women in academia she is extraordinarily enthusiastic about the Women in Research fellowship of the WWU www.wire-wwu.de


2. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today. Were there any surprises along the way?

I started teaching very early, at the age of 21, when I got a contract as an assistant while I was studying for my Bachelor degree. And even though I felt curiosity to have a glimpse on what happens outside University, it always seemed clear that it is the place I belong to. It’s probably due to this feeling of vocation that I got where I am today.

What is sure is that surprises have been constant along the years and that apparently they keep on coming. 

3. What tips would you give to girls looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Make a career plan and be aware of the gender gap, both will help you to get along. Check out more here!

Dr Leyre Marzo. © Leyre Marzo

1. Leyre, what or who was your inspiration to start your pathway into the sciences? 

My chemistry teacher I had when I was 12. She loved teaching, and chemistry, and I think she was my first inspiration. 

2. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today. Were there any surprises along the way? 

When I was in the third year of my degree, I was in love with the practical courses because it allowed me to materialize what I had been learning in theoretical classes. Therefore, I realized this was what I wanted to do. 

When I finished my Bachelor degree, I got a fellowship to perform my Master, and afterwards I received a fellowship to do my PhD. Doing the PhD was tough sometimes, because of the dedication that it required, and sometimes also the frustration of not getting good results. When I finished my PhD, I was not completely sure, if I really wanted to continue doing research, because I was exhausted after the PhD, but finally I decided that going abroad to do research in a completely new area might be refreshing, and also that I deserved this opportunity to really learn whether this feeling was real or not. Thus, I moved to Germany, where I started researching on photocatalysis, and the love for research came back again. Since then I´m passionate of what I´m doing and I try to give my best everyday. 

3. What tips would you give to girls looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Don´t quit too soon, give it and yourself a chance. Fight hard for what you really want, and don´t be desperate, if something doesn´t work as expected, because every effort has its rewards. Check out more here!

The interview questions were provided by Twinkl, check them out here: https://www.twinkl.de/blog/twinkl-interviewt-wire-stipendiatinnen

There are so many more inspiring Female Scientists here at WIRE, so make sure to check out their invaluable research to tackle various challenges we’re all facing today here on the blog.

Author

Comments are closed.