You’ll develop many transferable skills in science: Meet Maggie Lieu 

Dr Maggie Lieu (@space_mog), The European Space Agency, is taking part in Soapbox Science Brighton on 1st June with the talk: “Why dark matter matters”




SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place – and what are you most looking forward to/excited about in taking part? 

ML: Science + beach? What could be more attractive? I’m most excited about the sea. I have to say, I‘ve given a lot of talks before but usually it’s in a dark dingy room and not on a beach.


SS: Tell us about your career pathway

ML: I did an integrated masters in Astronomy Space Science and astrophysics at the University of Kent with a year at the University of Los Angeles, straight out of school. I wanted to be an astronaut and I still do, but I got distracted on the way by this mysterious thing called dark matter which led me to doing a PhD in Astrophysics to study dark matter in cluster of galaxies. I currently work at the European Space Agency continuing on with that research – best of both worlds I’d say J


SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science? 

ML: I have always had an interest in science. It’s always been my favourite subject in school and I think my teachers had a huge role in that. I loved the experiments we did in class, it didn’t feel like work at all, it just felt fun… and as a researcher it still does! I think having a good or bad teacher in any subject can make or break your career path.


SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?

ML: The most fascinating part of my work is that no one in the world is working on exactly the same thing I am. I am the expert in my field and what I’m doing is completely unique but could change our understanding of the Universe as we know it.


SS: Research in STEM is increasingly multi-disciplinary. Which subjects do you use in your work?

ML: This is definitely true. I use a lot of physics and maths in my work, but often I write papers and proposals so English. I also use a lot of coding but unfortunately computer science was not a subject I had the option of doing school. I live and work in Madrid, so Spanish was useful for me. You’ll find that many scientists move all over the world and travel for work quite often so knowing lots of languages is useful.


SS: What 3 attributes do you consider important to your work (e.g. creativity, team-work, etc), and why did you pick these?

ML: Enthusiasm – Like every job, research has highs and lows. We need to make the most of the best parts.

Problem solving – many of the problems we work on have never been solved before so this helps a lot!

Determination – if it doesn’t work first time, keep trying. You’ll get it in the end even if it takes some time.


SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?

ML: I wish it was easier for people to stay in academia if they want to. Many people who are great researchers find that they need to leave because contracts are short, salary is low, and there is huge pressure to publish (even if its bad science).


SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female student considering pursuing a career in academia?

ML: I had imposter syndrome. Everyone I know had imposter syndrome. It’s worse being a woman in a male dominated field, but just know that it’s just a phase and eventually you will grow out of it.


SS: What words of encouragement would you give to children who might be interested in a career in science?

ML: Welcome to the world of science, here you will develop many transferable skills that even if you change your mind later on you will still be set for life.


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