Browsing Tag

research

News

‘Stemming the tide’ of women leaving chemistry

Recent studies have shown that there are still hurdles that women have to overcome, but successful departments have felt the benefit of mentoring and creating a supportive environment. More still needs to be done to help fix the leaky pipeline – and some of the problems, such as wider societal perceptions and expectations, are bigger than the departments they affect. However, by continual monitoring and increased awareness, the proportion of female senior scientists should improve.

[ via Chemistry World ]

News

Scientific diversity and equality – attacking the imbalance

The nicest thing I found about this call to arms, which is particularly apparent in the film, is that it is not just about women but it is about being fair to everyone. It is about the desire to create a workplace that supports everyone, which allows flexibility and supports young academics regardless of their gender.

[ via The Guardian ]

Blog

STEMinist Profile: Marguerite Evans-Galea, Scientist/Senior Research Officer

Marguerite (Maggie) Evans-Galea

Scientist, Senior Research Officer, Team Leader

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had always been a curious child who loved animals and nature. My brother and I used to collect tadpoles from the local pond and watch them develop. I also relished (still do) Sir David Attenborough’s incredible documentaries, but really fell in love with ‘the molecular’ when I watched “Race for the Double Helix”.

But I had a double-love in science and music. I had considered being a music therapist, and this is initially why I did my double degree – B. Music and B. Science – but I was ultimately bitten by the science bug. After graduating, I went onto postgraduate studies in science and here I am.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
It is often the way that the coolest project is the one you are working on at the time. But I have finally found the ‘big picture’ topic I wish to pursue for the rest of my career. I am excited to be developing novel biomarkers and therapies for severely debilitating neurodegenerative disease. This work contains all of the most fascinating aspects of my scientific training – all meshed together!

Role models and heroes:
Role models/heroes in science: Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, David Attenborough, Peter Doherty, Brian Schmidt and my husband – all are ‘true’ scientists, minus the ego.

Other role models/heroes: Maya Angelou, Ludwig van Beethoven, the Dalai Lama, Carrie Fisher, Nick Vijucic and my Mum – all extraordinary individuals who overcame immense challenges in their lives.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love helping people. Severely debilitating disease can rob an individual of their independence, their quality of life and sometimes even their dignity and hope. People whose lives are touch by serious disease never fail to inspire. Whether across the table or across borders – they are incredibly strong; always supporting each other, their families and themselves.

Scientific research is a lifeline. It is a glimmer on the horizon – an opportunity to restore belief in the impossible. Adding to our knowledge about a disease and exploring potential treatments that could go from bench-to-beside, makes me feel like I am doing something very ‘real’ and useful every single day. After all, the medicines prescribed by our doctors every day were first developed in the laboratory. It is extremely rewarding!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Do what you love to do. Recognise your talents, broaden your scope and look beyond what you see. Science is just one word that encompasses a universe of questions, knowledge, expertise, opportunities and professions! Dream big and go for it!

Favorite website or app:
Twitter – great online networking tool.

Twitter: @MVEG001

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jin K. Montclare, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Jin K. Montclare

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Polytechnic Institute of New York University



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
While I was always interested in science and math as a young girl, it was through the encouragement of my teachers, mentors and family that led me to my career. I was really fortunate to have had a number of wonderful teachers and mentors throughout my life who cheered me on even when there were times I had doubts about my path.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The beauty about my job is that I am constantly engaged in cool projects with new discoveries and data. Right now, the project that has been occupying my mind has been our “smart biomaterials” work. My students and I designed and fabricated engineered proteins that are comprised of two parts: one that can form a cylinder for binding small molecules/drugs (derived from a coiled coiled protein) and another that can assemble/disassemble as function of temperature (from elastin).

When fused, the resulting hybrid proteins self-assemble into nanoparticles that can encapsulate drugs and upon sensing a particular temperature, trigger aggregation and release. These materials have interesting implications in medicine and drug delivery.

Role models and heroes:
I believe I have been extremely fortunate to have in my life a set of role models (both men and women) that have played a significant role in shaping my career. These include my teachers, professors, advisors and colleagues. However, the most influential role model in my life has been my grandmother. She was a living example of persistence, diligence and character.

She had lost her husband and had to raise four very young children while working as a nurse at an orphanage. Through sheer determination, she was able to successfully raise her children into adulthood as well as help raise me and my brother. She was the one who came over to the US and sent money to bring all her children over. Her strength during her incredible life has been a source of support for me and when I am in a predicament, I draw from her strength.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM as what I do as a scientist/engineer and educator can really make a difference in the world. The research on the proteins we fabricate in the lab have implications in medicine, electronics, energy and the environment. The lessons I teach can inspire the next generation of scientist/engineers.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice to others is to follow your passion and surround yourself with support. I fully recognize that the STEM path is not easy, but I can attest that it is rewarding. While there may be individuals who may question or belittle your decisions in pursuing STEM, I suggest you develop selective hearing in which you simply tune down those individuals and tune those who support you.

Favorite website or app:
Twitter, Evernote, Lewis Dots (our chemistry app)

Twitter: @jkmontclare

Site: Tumblr, Faculty page, Facebook, Research Lab

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Kristen Sager Cincotta, Neuroscience Ph.D. Graduate

Kristen Sager Cincotta

Occupation: ORISE fellow/guest public health policy researcher

Organization: CDC



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I liked learning about how things work, especially within the body, and I loved my science classes in grade school. Science felt more like playing than my other classes, which were mostly memorizing and regurgitating things. When I realized that I could have a career in science that might actually help us solve some of the greatest problems facing the world today, instead of helping someone else make money selling something, I was all in.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My graduate work all focused on Alzheimer’s Disease, and in particular, a receptor protein that appears to manipulate the production of ABeta, the primary component of amyloid plaques. At one point, I got to work on a project attempting to identify novel compounds that could interact with and redirect my receptor around the cell, thus giving us a way to control ABeta production.

It was a highly translational project that could have significant ramifications for our ability to treat, or more likely, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in patients. I found it very exciting to be working on something with that type of applicability to a very real problem. Plus, I got to use some seriously cool robotics in setting up the high throughput compound screenings!

Role models/heroes:
My undergraduate advisor, Dr. Jean Hardwick and the women of the Ithaca College Biology Department who showed me that women can run not just their own labs, but entire scientific departments. Mary Lasker, Nancy Brinker, and Laura Ziskin, who all identified important gaps in our public health system (especially regarding cancer) and worked (or are working) to do something about it. My mother, whose strength and resolve in living her life with Stage IV breast cancer is a daily reminder that some things are worth fighting for.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Because it’s fun and it’s important in equal measure. Scientists get to play with interesting equipment and techniques, see things most people never do, and spend days and weeks thinking about and trying to answer questions that most people don’t have the time to even consider. And scientists have the ability to change the world for the better.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Support each other, especially up-and-coming women in science. For whatever reason, women in STEM can be very judgmental of their fellow STEMinists. It almost feels like there’s an unspoken belief that if we broaden the field to allow more women in, we will be diminishing the accomplishments of the STEMinist trail blazers that went before us. It’s a weird paradox that I was disheartened to discover. We should be opening our arms and supporting all women in STEM, not self-selecting those we feel are the “right” type of female scientist.

Favorite website/app:
Twitter – it’s my news feed and communications outlet all in one!

Website: www.KristenCincotta.com
Twitter: @kscincotta

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Stéphanie Couvreur, Physics PhD Student

Stéphanie Couvreur

Physics PhD Student

Université Paris Diderot – Matière et Systèmes Complexes Laboratory



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I think curiosity was my main motivation to pursue a career in science, the curiosity of understanding the world around you. As a child, I had always wanted to become an archaeologist. When I grew up, I participated in excavations and during the same time, at school, I was really enjoying maths and physics, their way to explain phenomena. So I decided to study science and more specifically physics in order to work at the frontier between science, archaeology and art history in datation and scientific analyses.

I was very lucky to work in this field during an internship in the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (Research and Conservation Center for French Museums). But finally, during my physics studies, I enjoyed more and more hydrodynamics, a field where you directly “see” what you study. I particularly appreciated the beauty of the phenomena, and how you can often observe them in your daily life! For me, understanding them adds a form of beauty to life. That is how I decided to pursue a career in physics and to do my PhD in hydrodynamics.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
During my studies and now as a PhD student, I worked as a science explainer in this amazing science museum in Paris called Palais de la Découverte. The particularity of this museum is science shows: there are about 60 of them every day in many different topics! In the physics department, we deal with various subjects, from basic electrostatics to superconductivity, passing by sound waves. We have the opportunity to use impressive facilities like a electromagnet which reproduces a magnetic field 10 000 times bigger than the Erath’s one, using a current of 500 Ampers!

In this museum, you surprise the public with phenomena they don’t expect, their eyes are shiny and they have an expression of interrogation on their face. Then you explain the science and you make the public happy by explaining to them what is going on. For me, it is amazing to make discovering physics to people in a way they like it. I just want to increase their curiosity towards science. I went to this museum as a child, then as a teenager and now as a physicist and I have always learned so many things there. In particular, interacting with the public brings you a lot of questions, about the pedagogy of course but also about the physics itself.

Role models/heroes:
Sophie Germain was one of the first women mathematician. She had to pretend to be a boy to follow science class in the “École Polytechnique”. She exchanged many letters with Gauss.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love observing phenomena in my daily-life in a new way. For example, at breakfast, when you let flow honey from your spoon to your muffin, the honey spins when hitting the bread; then you mix your cup of tea and tea leaves go in the center of your cup; whereas some tea leaves stay at the surface of the liquid and aggregate…in all these current phenomena, there are some beautiful physics inside. It makes me see the life with another look! 🙂

Advice for future STEMinists?
Go for it, I am sure you will enjoy it! 🙂 For now there are few women in some fields (as physics for example) but don’t be afraid about that, just show you are as smart as a man!

Twitter: @stephaniecouv

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Patricia Verrier, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Mathematics

Patricia Verrier

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department of Mathematics, University of Portsmouth



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I think it was the subject itself! I’ve always wanted to do something that involved maths, for as long as I can remember (except for a few weeks at primary school, when apparently I wanted to be an ice skater). I was also very keen to work in a field that involved planets and space exploration, although this may be attributable to a misspent youth reading too much science fiction!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The project I’m currently working wins this one. I’m helping design orbits for solar sail space missions. Solar sails are a type of spacecraft that use radiation pressure as a means of moving around the Solar System (or beyond). They’ve been around as an idea in science fiction for ages, but are now starting to become a feasible technology. The maths involved is really interesting and the project is aiming to find practical applications in space exploration too, so it’s just a brilliant topic to work on.

Role models/heroes:
Currently the whole of Team GB, especially the women’s rowing squad!

Why do you love working in STEM?
There are a lot of reasons! But getting to do maths all day and getting to work on cool projects are two of the main ones. Being able to do something both challenging and enjoyable as a job is just fantastic.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t give up, no matter how frustrating things get!

Favorite website/app:
I think it has to be www.xkcd.com.

Twitter: @dynamicist

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Sarah Bisbing, PhD Candidate, Forest Ecologist

Sarah Bisbing

PhD Candidate, Forest Ecologist

Colorado State University – Graduate Degree Program in Ecology



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have to say that I had no idea I would end up growing up to be a scientist. I have always been creative and curious, and I have always had a deep love of plants. But, I’m from a city-centric family. My family thinks that trips to Lincoln Park (Chicago) and Central Park (NYC) are outdoor adventures. I now work in truly challenging field sites (rainy southeast Alaska, anyone?). Who would have thought?

A fascination with ecosystem composition and function is what really drew me in. I just had to know. Two professors in my undergraduate career, Dr. Paul Alaback and Dr. Tom DeLuca, inspired me – so much so that I went on to get a Master’s degree under their direction. But, I guess I really just followed my passion. Ecology allowed me to explore, ponder, question, problem solve, and be creative.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
One of my dissertation projects is the coolest project I’ve ever worked on. I’m quantifying genetic diversity and gene flow across the range of Pinus contorta (the most widespread pine in western North America). To sample the species for genetic analysis, I traveled across the entire range of the species (from southern California north through Canada to southeast Alaska and east into the Rocky Mountains). This sampling trip allowed me to see the incredible diversity of natural ecosystems across the west AND learn about the ecology of my species.

Role models/heroes:
I am inspired by passionate scientists. There are so many that it is really hard to name only a few.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I learn so much each and every day. There are infinite questions to ask and answers to pursue. I cannot imagine a more exciting, more challenging career.

Advice for future STEMinists?
You CAN do this. Do what you are passionate about, and everything will fall into place.

Favorite website/app:
Well, our Early Career Ecologists blog, of course.

Website: warnercnr.colostate.edu/~sbisbing
Twitter: @SarahBisbing