Women and Girls in Science

  1. When and why did you decide to become a scientist?

I decided to be involved in the field of health and life sciences, when I was in the 9th grade. I have always been fascinated by Biology and Chemistry because of the effective mentoring and encouragement from teachers of European School. The main motivator for my career path was a lifelong interest in science and intellectual challenge. During the high school, I became interested in the field of genetics which is one of the most controversial and productive areas of the scientific research nowadays. What attracted me the most were techniques, which are being developed for artificial manipulation of DNA, cells and organisms, stem cell research and diseases that may be treated by stem cell technology in the future. After the first year of Biomedical Sciences I realized and became entirely sure that my future career should be related with this most fascinating field, creating wider possibilities for health improvement, but also involving moral and ethical dilemmas that must be also taken into account. Even though, I decided to take a different path after graduating from Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, I understood that being a scientist has unlimited opportunities, one door leading to another and it does not necessarily mean working in a lab for the rest of your life.

  1. What are the main challenges for science students in general and did the knowledge and skills developed at your school helped you to overcome them?

Learning science requires the coordination of a complex set of cognitive, affective, and motivational strategies and skills. Even if a professor provides the appropriate environment to support critical scientific thinking and reasoning, students often lack the background knowledge to do so effectively. Lack of sufficient domain-specific content knowledge makes the task of thinking critically challenging. Writing scientific papers is a complex process for science students. Students do not acquire self-regulatory skills, which entails the ability to plan writing beforehand, and additionally, the skills that are specific to the actual writing process, such as complex sentence construction. Scientific problems also require non-routine problem solving. For problem solving, thinking outside the box is an effective solution. Acquiring these skills needs practice. Starting studies at the University is a whole new level and is quite challenging for everyone. However, skills developed at the European School, especially at IB/DP Programme, really helped me to overcome all the aforementioned challenges. At Maastricht University, my skills got improved, due to the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) System, which in my opinion, should exist in as many schools as possible. It allows students to have some control over how they learn and process material. They are not given the exact chapters of books to read, they are allowed to research any topic to the extent they think is essential, after discussing the case and writing down the learning goals.

  1. Can you briefly introduce your research? What excites you about your work?

Currently I am writing a Systematic Review of the literature on the methodology of headroom analysis, as well as assessing how headroom analyses have been performed in the literature. Innovative health technologies are major contributors to healthcare development, but they also have a large economic impact on the healthcare system. It is very important to make decisions about how to spend resources most beneficially, often using economic evaluations within a health technology assessment. Early-stage economic evaluations can be useful, because they provide information on whether a health technology might be economically viable. A simple approach to make fast decisions at the start of the health technology development is the Headroom Method. This is the short explanation of my current research area. If you become interested in this topic, hopefully my article will be published in the scientific journal this summer, and everyone will be able to read it. This topic is new to me, but I am always open to getting more experience in different fields of Medicine and Life Sciences, as this is directly related to my academic, professional, and personal development. I have always wanted to collaborate with a company or an institution in healthcare and to do an academic project that would contribute to the society. Moreover, with many distinguished scientists as professors, I am gaining proficient knowledge. Working on this project allows me to have a better understanding of relationship between the science and the society and also to become more profound and durable, because I am able to develop skills that can be transferred to the real-world situations. It also hinges on interaction and collaboration, giving an opportunity to build transferable skills based on teamwork. Cooperation with scientists and researchers from different fields increases the motivation and the will of integrating knowledge and applying ideas and methods from different disciplinary angles that will result hopefully in the successful academic research.

  1. What is your biggest achievement? What is your next step?

The biggest achievement was my first Successful British Society for Immunology (BSI) Congress in Liverpool. It is the UK’s premier immunology event attracting over 1200 attendees from leading UK and international researchers. With my Honours Programme research group from Maastricht University, I presented our project “Burden of Selected Autoimmune Disease (AID) Comorbidities”. As a significant knowledge gap regarding the burden of comorbid autoimmune diseases exist today, we decided to look into pathophysiological mechanisms of AIDs. To determine the burden of polyautoimmunity and to identify prevalent groups of comorbidities, we analyzed a longitudinal dataset derived from a population of 85,600 patients. We are finalizing our work on this topic and the article will be hopefully published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology. Attending this congress was a great experience for me. It was a pleasure that I was part of it and presented our work to a lot of researchers.

I am planning to start Master of Governance and Leadership in European Public Health (EPH) from September. After all these years being involved in the field of health and life sciences, I realized that research is not for me, and that there are many other science-related career paths.

  1. What is the role of women in science?

Women have made truly significant and often dramatic contributions to science. Many obstacles have been placed before women in science over the years. Many women seeking to pursue a career in science had to endure inconveniences, restrictions and even humiliation compared with, and sometimes from, their male counterparts. However, many aspects of society changed during the second half of the 20th century, including attitude toward women scientists. Women’s contribution to science encompass chemistry, biology, biochemistry, medicine, nuclear science, psychology, environmental science. And what magnificent achievements, what dedication, what outstanding ability have been demonstrated by women in science. A pioneering figure to further strengthen this statement is Marie Curie – one of the only two people to win Nobel Prize in two different fields. Though there are more female scientists today, this fact is not reflected in the number of women we see leading departments or research projects. This problem is a vicious circle: a lack of leading female scientists means a lack of role models. Women’s inclusion and empowerment in science means bringing in a different and complementary point of view that has the potential to produce a high positive impact on the final output for human progress.

  1. What advice would you give to the ES students who want to become scientists in the future?

Being a scientist means being internationally minded, because science does not have borders. Science is not all white coats and lab work. If research is not for you, there are many other science-related career paths that you can try. You could work with governments to create public policy, market or sell scientific services for labs and science organizations, develop scientific innovations as products and applications for industry. Scientific careers are not paved by fixed paths. Finding what motivates you to explore and tinker with the world around you is often the key ingredient that shapes your trajectory as a scientist. This means to allow yourself to “waste time”. But, in spite of pressure and anxiety, never lose sight of your primary driver, the thing that really got you into science.


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