To distinguished women scientists the world over!: Meet Eucharia Nwaichi

Dr Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi (@EuchariaN), University of Port Harcourt Nigeria, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk “My Environment, my Kitchen” 

Wake Up Your POSSIBILITY: Apart from my excellent performances in science subjects and a keen interest in the environment which spurred me to study Biochemistry, my experiences while undergoing an industrial training (a requirement of a Bachelors degree in most Science and Engineering courses in Nigeria) in a manufacturing company in one of the devastated areas in the Niger Delta region cracked me into thinking of how to contribute to remediating the environment.

My Bachelors’ degree research findings led me to enrol into a Master’s degree from which research I developed my potential for environmental studies. I went into the PhD programme with so much enthusiasm and my champions were great, always urging me on to compete with international researchers, to make my research findings known in reputable journals and other media of communication. That was how I started.

The research which won the international UNESCO L’Oreal 2013 fellowship on the 28th of March 2013 at La Sorbonne University, Paris is on the remediation of environmental components, the soil particularly, using two locally available species in a bid to make it cost-effective, accessible and environmentally friendly in nature. In the Oil & Gas sector (the major polluters), chemical and excavation-based remediation methods are heavily in use. It’s just like shifting the goal post of a problem when you excavate and dump at another site. You just transferred the problem, so here we are trying to do a holistic remediation using biological means termed ‘Phytoremediation’.

How many of us, after several well-publicised and ultimately unsuccessful attempts towards our lifelong dream, would get back into the cold, behind–the–scene, always–campaigned–for, difficult–they–say discipline – science? YOU (the winners) are! That’s why we are here! Falling down is not falling out, you have demonstrated that from daily research frustrations. You stood out of the mediocre crowd because nobody notices NORMAL!

Women, they say, are ornaments of the world but you have employed our (women) enduring, patient and fighting spirit to make these diverse decorative architectures in your various fields of science being displayed here today. Make the most out of your research experience and GIVE BACK at the same time to your funders, country, environment and the world at large. Live each day like you expect something great to happen and SHARE YOUR STORIES!

I give you a hand of collaboration this day.


Long live Women in Science!

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Draw “specific” realizable goals and be determined: Meet Adebisi Adedayo Adebisi

Dr Adebisi Adedayo Adebisi (@AdebisiAdeday11), Lagos State University College of Medicine, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk: “Using medicinal plants to reduce the side effects of combined oral contraceptives”

Soapbox Science: how did you get to your current position?

Dr ADEBISI, Adedayo Adebisi (Medical doctor, Scientist (Biochemist) and Lecturer at Medical Biochemistry Department, Lagos State University College of Medicine): My unquenchable thirst for knowledge in the medical sciences made me go back and study medicine despite having completed both a B.Sc and Masters degree in Biochemistry. However, my zeal and passion for research, teaching and impacting young minds positively made me go back to the classroom as a lecturer and researcher.

I worked as a Medical doctor briefly for some few years after my housemanship but the hollow was there; I knew I had to go back to my “first love” – Biochemistry. However, my medical training has greatly influenced my aspect of research in Medical Biochemistry.

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

Every young person growing up in the 90’s wanted to be a Doctor, Engineer or Lawyer. I grew up wanting to be a Pharmacist (It was relatively new then and the idea of making drugs myself sounded really good) but got admitted to study Biochemistry then. I made up my mind to finish Biochemistry and then come back to study Pharmacy.

However, few years down the lane whilst doing my National Youth Service Corps, I was convinced by my mentor who is also a medical doctor (Dr ALATISHE, Adeniyi) to go back and study Medicine instead. Moreover, medicine seems to be a whole lot more respected at that time. Moreso, working in a hospital as a Youth corper at the time made me develop some more interest in Medicine. I convinced myself that medicine was more intrincate and more involving than Pharmacy.

The drive to go back to basic medical sciences and research was solely one of “finding oneself” and recognizing one’s niche. It is one decision I took that I never regretted. 

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

The possibility of discovering a novel “Near Perfect” natural plant compound capable of meeting a medical need in women (Contraception cum Child spacing) with little or no side effects (hypertension, diabetes and obesity)

SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

I am aware Soapbox Science is comprised of intellectuals with high cognitive and mental prowess which I find enriching. I believe it’s a level ground for intellects to rub minds and disseminate knowledge to others even not in the Sciences

SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day?

I expect that all the day’s activities will be highly enlightening and impactful.

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

Access to good mentoring, grants and sponsorship

SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

She should be tenacious and highly focused. She should draw “specific” realizable goals and be determined to meet them. The reality of an African woman is to find a balance between studies/career and the family.

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Be focused, determined, persevering: Meet Francisca Nneka Okeke

Prof Francisca Nneka Okeke  (@Proffrancisca01), University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk: “Women participation in the development of science and technology, towards sustainable development”

Soapbox Science: how did you get to your current position?

Francisca Nneka Okeke (Professor of Physics): I got to my current position in the year 2000, out of hard work and extensive publications from my research work.

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

My late father was my mentor and he inspired me. He taught me Mathematics ahead of my class which made me develop high interest in mathematics that later metamorphosed into a love for science.

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

My work on daily variations of geomagnetic H, D and Z-fields at equatorial latitudes was an exciting and very interesting project. This is because results from the project shed more light on our understanding of climatic changes that are currently disturbing the world. In other words, variations in geomagnetic fields are related to climatic changes.

SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

Their idea of incorporating various aspects of different fields in science.

SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day


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

Teaching and learning processes by introducing use of local available material/resources.

SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

She has to be focused, determined, persevering and must take up academic challenges in terms of research work, in order to contribute to existing knowledge. She must work for breakthroughs and new discoveries and settle academic controversies or disputes.

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I Live Because I Exist- Lessons from a Student: Meet Sylvia Onyinyechi Anyadoh-Nwadike

Dr Sylvia Onyinyechi Anyadoh-Nwadike (@SylvPet), Federal University of Technology Owerri, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk: “Are you afraid of Microorganisms?”

This is an experience I have been longing to share which has kept me enthusiastic about the job I do. As a lecturer, I enjoy learning from my students, while I try to help form them into the best they can be for their sakes, their families, communities and our nation at large.

During my early years, most people thought I was a student. Hence, it was easy for me to bond with students. One day, an assistant class representative bumped into my office looking very excited. She was eager to tell me something she learnt in a philosophy lecture. Though I was about to step out of my office, I sat back. “Why are you this excited?” I asked. Still beaming with excitement, she exclaimed, “Aunty, I just learnt that I live because I exist!”  “Wow, interesting! Tell me about it”.

“Aunty, today I learnt that a lot of people come into this world and literarily seem to live for many years, yet they make no impact as such because they practically do not exist. They live for many years and die without ever existing. They make no mark, no impact, leave no impressions and are hardly remembered, except by few family members. This is because those people lived without existing. Henceforth, I have decided that I will not just live but I will EXIST! In fact, I will henceforth live just because I exist!”

I listened with rapt attention and never interrupted. When she was done, I was awed and told her, “Go ahead young lady, you can do it, let the world know that you exist, that is how it should be”. With that encouragement, she left elated. Her name, Ucheoma Ada Nnodi, is still easily remembered in the department till date; though she graduated in 2010.

That was a lesson I never forgot – there is a need for me to exist. Most times a lot of people especially women live without existing mostly after marriage, nobody hears about them, they make no impact, they just kind of “disappear”. They go through life without even knowing the meaning of life and many times cannot define themselves.

Women have been tagged the “weaker sex”. As women, we should not accept the tag for a woman ab initio is an embodiment of strength waiting to be properly harnessed for great impact. Women should be the fulcrum on which the world revolves hence every woman should exist at all times. We should be ready to make an impact not just in families but in society and world. I think we should stand up and take our God-given role as ‘co-creators’ to recreate our world and make it a better place. This is not in competition with men as we can exist without competing. A Nigerian proverb states, “there is no competition in destiny”. We should exist in our families as well as in the scientific, political, social, economic and policy-making spheres of our world. Yes, we can go ahead and live because we exist!

I most sincerely thank the founders and organisers of Soapbox Science for giving women another route of EXISTING. I am indeed excited to be part of this year’s programme. I look forward to the continued enjoyment of my existence in the scientific world, through participation in the Soapbox Science Lagos November session.

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My life as a student, researcher, woman and mother: Meet Akinlabi Olabisi

Akinlabi Olabisi Comfort (@bcyemi), University of Ibadan, is taking part in Soapbox Science Lagos on 23rd November with the talk:Diarrhoea; a threat to infant life

As a Nigerian scientist, I always wonder why there are fewer women than men in science. Could it be due to our culture, which sometimes specifies that a woman’s education ends in the kitchen? Or is it a lack of encouragement from mentors and family, the lack of funds or simply discrimination?

My current perspective is that all of these aforementioned factors have contributed, in some way, to the low numbers of women in science. However, these have not deterred my interest in scientific research but rather motivated me to obtain my Masters degree. Now, I am a PhD student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. As a young lady, my zeal and love for research have kept me going. Although, I have had to balance my student life with my other roles as a wife and mother.

Did I tell you that I am a mother of two? Sighs! I have a number of memories from being pregnant and studying in the first year of my PhD. Combining antenatal appointments with lab work, and now performing school runs. It has not been easy, but with support from my colleagues and mentor, I have been able to continue with my studies.

I also remember the many times I have to hurry up before the end of lab meetings, in order to pick up my children from school (an activity colloquially known as ‘school runs’). My colleagues help, by allowing me to present first during lab meetings – for which I am grateful. There was a particular day a colleague of mine went first, with my permission of course, and you needed to have seen the way my mentor asked why I was not going first as usual. I just smiled and told her I was not in a hurry on that day. I could go on and on, talking about the challenges but not without making reference to my angelic husband who encourages me not to let go and be focused at all times. I think I’ve got a tip: Ladies! Get married to a man who shares similar dreams with you, because a woman needs an understanding and supportive man.

In all, it is fulfilling to see the products of my research. It has a way of taking off the stress.

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Find your passion, talk about it and make it happen: Meet Vimbaishe Chibanga

Vimbaishe Chibanga is a final year PhD candidate at the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia. She is a biochemist and virologist studying the mechanisms by which human parainfluenza viruses bind to the sugar on our cells in order to infect us. She has expertise in protein biochemistry, enjoys science communication and is currently involved with multiple school STEM outreach programmes.

Vimbaishe spoke at the first edition of Soapbox Science in Gold Coast on the 17th of August 2019!

Follow Vimbaishe on Twitter: @VimbaisheC

Find your passion, talk about it and make it happen

by Vimbaishe Chibanga

Why am I a scientist?

I love biology! I am fascinated by the human body and have been eager to understand it since I started learning science. Hence, I pursued an undergraduate degree with majors in biochemistry and human anatomy and physiology. There are many pathogens which cause human diseases. Thus, it is vital for scientists to understand how these pathogens infect us in order to develop effective treatments. Currently, I am studying the mechanisms by which human parainfluenza viruses bind to the sugar on our cells. These viruses are the second leading cause of chest infections in infants and infect up to 80% of children less than five years old. Human parainfluenza viruses have been around for more than 60 years but, there are currently no licensed drugs or vaccines to treat infected individuals. My PhD research is contributing towards solving this problem. We need a cure!

Standing on the soapbox for the first time!

Thought-provoking and audacious. These are the two best words that summarise my experience.

Thought-provoking: It’s the simple things in life that matter, including the simple questions! Although STEM teaches us to think critically and solve complex problems, we should not forget the answers to the simple questions of life. “What is parainfluenza virus? Is it the same as the flu? How do I get infected? Does washing my hands prevent infection? Can eating sugar make parainfluenza viruses infect me more?” These are some of the simple questions that I had to answer, that I admittedly do not think about daily. Effective public engagement requires stepping outside of the ‘complicated scientific jargon’ box and conveying your message in a simple and easy to understand way. After all, scientific research is not reserved for the scientific journals and experts but, for the education of the community. Beyond the laboratory, science is for the enrichment of the people!

Audacious: Health science discoveries have potentially long-lasting emotional effects. One audience member bravely spoke about the loss of a child from pneumonia induced by a human parainfluenza virus infection. Another shared their late-night emergency room experiences with a hospitalised infant suffering from parainfluenza infection. Reading case studies about sickness and death in journals is very different to hearing someone’s firsthand teary-eyed experience. This was a solemn reminder to me and other scientists that the work we do (irrespective of the research field) has the ability to change lives and potentially save lives. We need more audacious scientists. We need more female scientists who are willing to follow their passion in order to effect change. Our scientific research matters!

Changing the status quo: STEM women are role models

We need to change the status quo. Women are just as brilliant, intelligent and capable as their male counterparts. Anyone and everyone can be a scientist. Science is a way a of thinking that is not defined by a person’s race, gender or country of origin. Female scientists need to support each other and inspire the next generation of young thinkers. If we are not visible to society, how can we change the traditional “Einstein” status quo? Let us confidently step into society and share our knowledge. Find your passion, talk about it and make it happen. In the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Soapbox Science is one of many platforms that allow us to inspire the next generation of scientists. I would gladly participate again and encourage all female scientists to be involved!

Vimbaishe (wearing a red shirt) standing with some of the amazing female scientists from the Institute for Glycomics who supported Soapbox Science Gold Coast 2019. Many thanks to the organisers of Soapbox Science Gold Coast 2019 and the volunteers who brightened up the day.

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It’s fascinating to see research output meet the needs of society: Meet Brakemi Egbedi

Brakemi Egbedi is an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Lagos. She obtained her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the above named department, with a specialization in Fisheries. She has as her areas of interest: seafood by-products utilization and biotechnology. Her PhD research basically focuses on utilizing fish by-products in the development of high value products. Through her research, she hopes to contribute to combating the world’s problem on hunger and poverty as well as ensuring the sustainable use of the ocean’s resources.

She looks forward to speaking about fish by-products utilization and why we should care about it, during her soap box presentation.

Soapbox Science: how did you get to your current position?

My name is EGBEDI Brakemi. I term my entry into the world of academia as providential; a ‘Scientific career received on a platter of gold’.

After my University education, I made up my mind not to pursue a Masters or a career in academia. My Undergraduate supervisors tried talking me out of it but I turned deaf ears to all their words of encouragement and advice. As fate would have it, after a mandatory one-year national service to my country, I was offered a job as an academic in the Department of Marine Sciences, owing to my sound academic records during my BSc. Degree. After much consideration, I accepted the offer because I realized the great horizon the world of academia offered me. This was the beginning of my journey in the world of academia.

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

From a tender age I found myself naturally drawn towards the field of science. It was more appealing to me than other fields of study.  As I grew older, I realized that my zeal to contribute to solving the needs of humanity could only be attained if I embraced a career in science.

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

First of all, my job in academia is two-fold: Teaching and conducting research. 

Teaching gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge with others which I enjoy a lot. The most rewarding part for me as a teacher is when I see my students understand difficult concepts they felt could never be comprehended.

The most fascinating part of my life as a researcher is seeing my research output meet the needs of society no matter how little it may be. Although I haven’t made any novel discoveries yet, I have been able to identify problems and proffer solutions through my research. Being of service to others via my research, always gives me real joy.

 SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?

Two things attracted me to the Soapbox Science forum.

The fact that I will be able to speak to a wide audience about what I am passionate about and in the process, inspire young girls to embrace a career in science, was the first attracting force for me.

Secondly, the Soapbox science provides a wonderful platform to network with other researchers from various disciplines and to engage with non-scientists who are eager to learn about what I do.

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

I would change the ‘Publish or Perish culture’. This attitude has led many researchers to compromise on standard practices and has paved the way for unethical practices to thrive. A consequence of this is the birth of many predatory journals. In addition, the ‘publish or perish culture’ has turned the focus of research into searching for ‘novelties’ (which in itself isn’t bad) to make a grand paper and / or win awards, at the expense of conducting research which serve the needs of society.

SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?

Studying for a PhD and working as an academia is very demanding but also very rewarding. Never go in for a PhD or a career in academia because everyone seems to be doing it or because you do not have a job. Do them because you want to and because you wish to make a positive contribution to your academic field and to the world as a whole. This for me, is the yardstick for true success and the source of joy in the life of a PhD student and an academician.

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Suivre les polluants au Canada : rencontrez Annabel Chung

Comment avez-vous obtenu votre poste actuel?

Je m’appelle Annabel Chung et je suis diplômée en chimie de l’Université de Montréal. Je travaille depuis 2013 à Environnement et Changement climatique Canada comme agente scientifique pour l’Inventaire national des rejets de polluants. Il s’agit d’un inventaire public annuel obligatoire où 7000 compagnies déclarent la pollution émise au cours des 25 dernières années. J’y appuie les activités de sensibilisation lors de festivals et dans les musées, fournis de l’expertise sur l’interprétation des données de pollution, travaille sur la modélisation de bases de données et appuie les activités de contrôle de qualité et de cartographie des données de pollution. C’est un poste très diversifié qui touche autant à la programmation, la cartographie, les sciences environnementales, l’éducation et la vulgarisation scientifique.

Je suis arrivée dans mon poste par un étrange concours de circonstances : mon université n’avait pas de programme de stage coopératif, mais offrait la possibilité d’avoir des stages en entreprise en remplacement d’un cours universitaire si l’étudiant le désirait. À la fin de mon baccalauréat, il me restait un cours à terminer en hiver pour obtenir mon diplôme. Je devais choisir entre un cours plus avancé en chimie de l’environnement et jongler avec un emploi qui pourrait accommoder mon horaire de cours; ou considérer des options de stage. Plutôt intriguée, j’ai préféré découvrir ce que le gouvernement fédéral avait à offrir à Gatineau (QC), étant donné que ce n’était pas une option particulièrement valorisée ou connue à mon université.

Je dois aussi mentionner que ma superviseure qui m’avait engagée avait décidé d’aller en-dehors des sentiers battus elle-même et d’aller chercher à Montréal des étudiants qui n’étaient pas forcément de programme coopératif comme Waterloo ou Ottawa pour leur donner une chance. Si ce n’était de son initiative, je ne serais probablement pas ici.

(de gauche à droite) Danica Lassaline, Annabel Chung et Kara au Musée de la Nature, parlant de cartographie des polluants au Canada

Qu’est-ce qui vous a inspiré à poursuivre une carrière en STIMM?

Dans ma famille, ma mère avait souvent regretté de ne pas avoir persévéré en sciences et espérait que je sois plus persévérante. Leur vision de la science s’orientait plutôt dans les champs de la santé. Cependant, au secondaire, une professeure en génie des systèmes de l’École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) est venue présenter son travail et ce que ses étudiants accomplissaient. Cette rencontre a ouvert mes yeux sur d’autres possibilités.

La vie est par contre parsemée de détours. J’ai considéré toutes sortes d’options entre la nutrition, les sciences de l’alimentation, le génie chimique, l’informatique avant de jeter mon dévolu sur la chimie. Mes autres amours continuent d’influencer mon travail et complémentent ma formation en chimie. Mes convictions du droit à une alimentation et à un environnement sains, le plaisir que j’en tire lorsque j’analyse des données de pollution ont guidé mes choix de carrière.

J’ai aussi eu la chance de rencontrer des gens qui ont étudié en chimie, mais qui ont suivi des parcours moins orthodoxes que les chimistes classiques, comme agent de brevet, gestionnaire de portefeuille pour des investissements en recherche ou en pilotage de règlementation environnementale.

Quel est l’élément le plus fascinant dans votre travail?

Comment le travail d’un, additionné à celui des autres, n’équivaut pas seulement pas à la somme des gestes de chacun. J’aime à comprendre comment un projet démarre avec une idée à première vue simple, qui au final nécessite une compréhension des sciences environnementales, de la modélisation de bases de données, de la programmation, de la cartographie et de la vulgarisation scientifique. Comment mon travail appuie le bien public, dans son éducation et sa compréhension des enjeux environnementaux, mais aussi dans sa capacité à se préparer et à se protéger contre leurs impacts. Comment aussi, de par la nature publique du programme, les données de l’Inventaire national des rejets de polluants sont utilisées par des gens de tous horizons (scientifiques, chercheurs, éducateurs, journalistes, etc.). Je trouve cela très gratifiant d’aider les gens à comprendre notre environnement et à naviguer ses enjeux.

Annabel Chung parlant de pollution au festival Eurêka, à Montréal

Qu’est-ce qui vous a amené à postuler à Soapbox Science?

Honnêtement… je ne m’attendais pas à ce que Soapbox Science accepte mon application. Dans ma tête, je voyais Soapbox Science comme un présentoir où des chercheurs présentent le travail de leur vie qu’ils ont accompli sur le terrain et en laboratoire. Moi scotchée à un ordinateur à longueur de journée à valider des chiffriers Excel, ça ne me semblait pas aussi… sexy.

Cependant, ma collègue Sarah m’a encouragée d’essayer, disant que je n’ai rien à perdre. Après tout, je crois en la mission du programme et du département, j’adore les gens avec qui je travaille – des scientifiques de tous horizons (biologistes, géographes, informaticiens, ingénieurs, etc.) – et je pense qu’ils ont besoin d’une voix pour valoriser leurs efforts quotidiens. Je n’aime pas particulièrement parler en public, mais j’aimerais partager cette expérience.

Des membres de l’équipe de l’INRP au Musée de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation du Canada

Résumez en un mot vos attentes pour la journée.


Je veux que les gens connaissent le travail des scientifiques du gouvernement et leur rapport au monde, malgré les décisions politiques.

Si vous pouvez changer quelque chose dans la culture scientifique, que serait-ce?

Valoriser l’intégration de disciplines variées au sein des sciences, comme les arts, la communication et l’éducation. Nous sommes des scientifiques avec de multiples facettes en notre personne et ces facettes gagneraient à être intégrées. Intégrer les divers savoirs ensemble permet de gagner une vision holistique à multiples dimensions et d’ainsi trouver des solutions plus complètes. Qui plus est, ça permet aux gens qui aiment moins les sciences d’y trouver leur compte, de peut-être trouver les sciences pas aussi terrifiantes qu’elles ne le sont et d’arrêter d’isoler les scientifiques avec le stéréotype de leur tour d’ivoire.

Votre recommandation pour une femme étudiant au PhD et désirant poursuivre une carrière universitaire?

Je n’ai pas fait de doctorat et je ne suis pas dans une carrière universitaire, ce n’était pas pour moi. Cependant, j’en connais beaucoup qui ont décidé de faire le saut et j’ai beaucoup de respect à l’égard de cette décision, ma foi, fort courageuse de poursuivre des études plus poussées et d’atteindre leurs rêves.

Testez vos limites, essayez d’atteindre vos objectifs, ne vous démoralisez pas si ça ne marche pas et soyez confiants en vos décisions. Et puis, si ça ne marche pas, ce n’est pas la fin du monde : les expériences, les réussites et les échecs bâtissent notre chemin. Et ce chemin peut parfois nous amener hors des sentiers battus et nous guider vers des voies insoupçonnées.

Est-ce que le gouvernement, c’est pour moi?

Il existe une pléthore d’opportunités pour les scientifiques au gouvernement, autant sur le terrain que dans les laboratoires que dans la modélisation, dans l’apport des sciences en politiques publiques, ou simplement dans la coordination de programmes scientifiques et l’éducation. Commencez par le Programme fédéral d’expérience de travail étudiant ou le programme co-op à l’université, parlez aux gens de votre passion!

Mots de remerciement

Merci à Sarah Bennett de m’avoir poussé à postuler pour Soapbox Science; merci à Danica Lassaline et Kara Hughes de m’avoir aidée à écrire ce blog; merci au reste de l’équipe d’être juste fantastique.

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Soapbox Science Brazil: Meet Adriana Cabanelas

Originally published on July 22, 2019, by Adriana Cabanelas, in Portuguese, here

by Dr Adriana Cabanelas

The first thing I had to explain when I said I was going to speak at Soapbox Science had nothing to do with science, but rather with the name of the event. Everybody in Brazil just asked “Soap…box?”, you are going to talk about the science of boxes that carry soap? It was funny, I can’t deny it. In Brazil we don’t have the habit of making speeches in public places, much less taking a box with us to do so (we would rather climb a bench or a statue). So, although a lot of Brazilians do have some basic English skills, they could not relate the word soapbox with a pulpit, a podium to climb and give a talk, so I had to explain that in England the soapboxes were usually used as pulpits in the last century, so the soapbox became a synonym for public speaking (I hope I explained it right, lol).

A woman speaks on a soapbox. I had to show this photo a lot to explain the event name.

This year the first edition of Soapbox Science was held in Brazil. It was organized by Dr Tatiana Pinto, Dr Rachel Ribeiro, Dr Aline Souza, Dr Laura Andrade, and MSc Natalia Araujo, in Rio de Janeiro.

Some of our wondrous organizers

The first day took place at Mauá Square, a place full of tourists and visitors, since it was revitalized for the Olympic games a few years ago and has two great museums to visit. It was quite a hot day in our hot winter (about 30º Celsius) and the sky was clear, so there we gave to the people a lot of science and sweat, lol. Next year we should attach a parasol to the soapbox. The second day happened at the entrance to a big supermarket, the Carrefour supermarket in Barra da Tijuca. I’m from Rio, but a lot of scientist women came from other states to give a talk. The public was way bigger than I assumed, I really didn’t expect so many people would stop and engage. They were seeking more knowledge; they asked interesting questions about science and public science politics and were thrilled to know there’s a lot of cool stuff being made in Brazil by female scientists.

It was a pleasure being selected by the organization, and even better to get to know a lot of talented scientists with amazing research.

The Instagram account O que a Cientista disse recorded some of our talks, if any Portuguese speaker would like to watch or if you just want to see us talking. The A Ciência Explica blog made a video too. It’s kind of funny to see yourself talking, you realize you said something silly or not very accurate trying to make it easier to understand and it’s ok, it’s gone, nothing can be done about it, lol

Every one of us took objects that would help us explain the complicated concepts in an easy way. I took some drawings and amigurumi toys, kindly lent by Dr Ines Gonçalves and Luciana Lobo. They were hand made by Ines herself and Clarissa Werneck, and are totally gorgeous. They were essential to clarify the explanations. I would love to have some toys of my own, but they are really expensive in Brazil for a poor scientist like me. If anyone would like to donate me some toy cells and germs, I would be thrilled.

I would also like to thank the volunteers for their help on both days. It was an amazing experience, in which I found that there are people wanting to know what I do (“where is the Chagas lady?”), that made me learn a lot more about communication and renewed my willingness to keep doing science communication (I’m one of the hosts of the Microbiando podcast, a podcast about news in microbiology and immunology). This weekend gave me an accomplishment smile (and an unexpected sunburn even wearing sunscreen, but it was totally worth it) 

I hope I can help with the next Brazilian edition because I loved it!

Here are some photos of the speakers on their boxes:

Dr Maria Letícia Bonatelli, (@marialbona), ESALQ/USP “Micróbios: nossos pequenos heróis / Microbes: our tiny heroes.”

MSc Gracielle Teixeira Higino, (@graciellehigino), Universidade Federal de Goiás “O que acontece quando dá “match” entre as espécies? / What happens when species get a match?”

MSc Sendy Melissa Santos do Nascimento, (, Federal University of Alagoas “Conhecendo partículas pequeninas de carbono / Knowing tiny carbon particles”

Dr Natália Maria Lanzarini (@dotoevirose) Programa de Saúde Pública e Meio Ambiente/ENSP “Divulgação viral, Viralizando a divulgação científica / Viral Science Difusion”

Dr Flávia Virginio, (@_NV1C / @nuncavi1cientista), Instituto Butantan “A jmportância das coleções zoológicas para a conservação das espécies / The importance of zoological collections for the preservation of species”

Dr Raiane Cardoso Chamon (@chamonraiane), Universidade Federal Fluminense “Superbacterias entre nós… o que precisamos saber e temer? / Superbugs among us… what do we need to know and fear?” 

Dr Paula Maria Moura de Almeida, (@paulamariamoura) Universidade Castelo Branco “O Geo da Questão: a geinformação  no dia a dia e nos estudos ambientais / The Geo of the Question: the geoinformation in the day to day and in the environmental studies”

Dr Janaína Dutra Silvestre Mendes (@becquereladas), National Cancer Institute (Instituto Nacional de Câncer – INCA / MS) “Cuidado! Você não está em risco! Será? As radiações ionizantes e nosso dia-a-dia / Watch out! You’re not at risk! Really? Ionizing radiations and our daily lives”

MSc Ana Cristina Villaça, University of Wollongong “Como a ciência pode ajudar a aumentar o conforto (térmico) e reduzir o consumo de enrgia em sua casa. / How science can help you increase your (thermal) comfort and reduce the energy bills at home.” 

Dr Amanda Gonçalves Bendia, (@amanda_bendia), Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto Oceanográfico  “Crônicas do gelo e fogo: bactérias em um vulcão ativo na Antártica / A song of ice and fire: bacteria from an active Antarctic volcano”

Dr. Juliana Reis Cortines, (@jurcortines), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro “Evolução da vida na Terra contada pelos vírus / Life on Earth as told by viruses”

Dr Luisa Maria Diele Viegas Costa Silva, UFBA “Mudanças climáticas e as extinções das espécies ao redor do mundo: Qual o nosso papel nisso tudo? / Climate change and extinctions all over the world: What is our role in that?’”

And I, Dr Adriana Cabanelas, (@dri_cabanelas) “Doença de Chagas e tecido adiposo. Qual a relação entre eles? / Chagas disease and adipose tissue: what’s the connection between them?”

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Improving Women’s Urogenital Health: Meet Cat Czyrnyj

In June 2019, the organizing team for Soapbox Science Ottawa had the pleasure of visiting the McLean Lab where Soapbox Science speaker, Cat Czyrnyj works.

Upon arrival at the lab, we were welcomed by Cat, her supervising professor Dr. Linda McLean and a group of researchers who share a common goal – to improve women’s urogenital health.

Ms. Czyrnyj, a third-year Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, explained the importance of conducting more research that pertains to women’s health, specifically speaking about pelvic floor muscles, urinary incontinence and uterine fibroids.

The latter being the subject of Cat’s current research, where she uses ultrasound elastography to generate vibrations in the uterine tissue to characterize and treat stiffness that occurs with uterine fibroids.

We also benefited from learning more about a fellow researcher’s work, Marie-Ève Bérubé, whose work focuses on urinary incontinence that occurs in women while exercising.  Thus, the need for treadmills in the lab!

To help these passionate researchers in their quest to improve women’s urogenital health, visit their website where you will learn more about their research and to sign up to participate in a study –

Thank you to the researchers in the McLean Lab for welcoming us!

If you’re interested in learning more about Cat’s research, join us on September 14, 2019, in the ByWard Market, Ottawa, Canada.

From left to right – Dr. Linda McLean, Soapbox Science Ottawa 2019 Speaker Cat Czyrnyj and Ph.D. Student Marie-Ève Bérubé
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