Look beyond your discipline: Meet Chioma Vivian Ngonadi

Chioma Vivian Ngonadi is a PhD student at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. She is a Gates Scholar and a mum to two young boys aged 3 and five years old. Her research examines how the West African Iron smelters in Lejja, Southeastern- Nigeria fed themselves and integrated the food quest among themselves in the deeper past (2,000- 3,000 B.C.).  She will be talking about “ A Human Fingerprint on an Iron working Landscape” at London Soapbox Science on the 26th of May 2018.

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

CVN: I grew up in southeastern Nigeria and graduated with a B.A. in Archaeology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka- Nigeria and an M.A. in Archaeology from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. On returning to Nigeria, I joined the academic staff of the Department of Archaeology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2012. I was encouraged by my husband, Uche Ngonadi to apply for a PhD position in Cambridge which I did and I was awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.  Currently, I am in the third year of my PhD with a thesis title of “Early Agricultural Communities in Lejja, Southeastern-Nigeria: An Archaeobotanical Investigation”.

 

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

CVN: I can say that my love for science and archaeology began when I was a secondary school student. Reading history books and watching discovery channels about ancient treasures and explorers was quite inspiring and I was highly intrigued by past human activities and ways of life.

 

SS: What is the fascinating aspect of your research?

CVN: I work on seeds, potsherds, pollens and in archaeology, these three proxies can help to reconstruct the plant food exploited, vegetation, climate, and human-landscape relationship in the deeper past.  I find it fascinating that these archaeological materials can reveal so much about what happened thousands of years ago and can help us link the past to the future.

 

SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science?

CVN: I enjoy taking part in science outreach events and talking to people about my research.  I have done so in different ways in Cambridge and Nigeria. For me, Soapbox offers a new platform to discuss and inform the public about Archaeology and the various methods of understanding the past.

 

SS: Sum up in your word your expectation of the day

CVN: Excitement!!!

 

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

CVN: I would like researchers to look beyond their disciplines and experience what is happening in other fields. There should be more scientific communications between scientist, and the public.

 

SS: What would you recommend for a woman studying for a PhD?

CVN: PhD journey can be quite overwhelming, but you should be kind to yourself and take a step at a time. Try and use your current position to create space for others along the way and build bridges through your subject.

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Public engagement needs to be a two-way process: Meet Emma Cascant-Lopez

Emma Cascant-Lopez (@EmCascant), NIAB-EMR, will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “The circadian clock: How pathogens know when is the best time for infection”

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

ECL: My name is Emma Cascant. After finishing my Biology degree in Valencia (Spain), I came to England to gain work experience through a Leonardo Studentship. I worked during 6 months at the genetics department of NIAB EMR, looking at the science behind the rootstock-scion interaction in crop plants. At the end of the placement I was convinced I wanted to do a PhD, and I was offered a PhD position at the same institute. My research focused in the study of the circadian clock of an important plant-pathogen that causes devastating loses to the horticultural industry. The aim was to elucidate time-specific pathogenic responses that could allow the development of highly precise control measures of the plant-pathogen. Currently, I just started a PostDoc at NIAB EMR to understand the lifecycle of the fungal plant-pathogen Verticillium dahliae and regulation by environmental signals such as light and temperature, with the intention to come up with novel effective management strategies.

 

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

ECL: During high-school I was inspired by my Biology teacher. She made me love and admire the subject, and I was always amazed by how molecularly complicated but perfect life is. That is the reason why I studied Biology at the University, and despite being more inclined towards molecular biology, I enjoyed every subject very much due to the enthusiasm of my professors.

 

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

ECL: Studying the circadian clock is very fascinating. This molecular mechanism allows organisms to track time, which increases the efficiency of many metabolic, behavioural and physiologic processes, i.e. sleep and hormone production. The desynchronization of the circadian clock is the cause of jet lag, and can be the cause of several illnesses in rotational shift workers. The clock also exists in plants and fungi. It is exciting to think that the control of fungal plant-diseases could be more successful by applying the treatment in a specific time-of-day. Not only it would allow an increase in efficiency, but it could reduce the amount of treatment needed. Win-win!

 

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

ECL: I wish more people would want to become a scientist. Showing not only how important for our society is, but how exciting it can be may inspire young generations to pursue a career in science. I hope that the Soapbox Science event turns out being very productive in engaging young (and not so young) girls in science. I am also very attracted to meet other woman in STEM, and hopefully create networks for future collaboration or public engagement events.

 

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

ECL: Fun

 

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

ECL: The way of informing and communicating our research to the public. Scientists usually feel more comfortable to communicate their research to other members of the scientific community. However, more efforts should be made to reach a wider public and empower people to have critical thinking. In my opinion, some people could change their mind about topics such as GMOs if there were more information about the biology and methodology behind them. However, the public is bombarded with all kind of pseudoscientific information. Furthermore, public engagement needs to be a two-way process, where public could express their concerns on different topics. As an example, plant-pathologists should work and engage with growers and industry to share knowledge and come up with feasible strategies for crop management.

 

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

ECL: I would tell them to be perseverant and always believe in their potential. To get involved in a wide range of University or public engagement events and to build their network and collaborate with other researchers.

 

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The world is run by people who show up: Meet Erin McCloskey

Erin McCloskey (@ER_IN_RESEARCH), Canterbury Christ Church University, will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Being an expert in not being an expert: How peer support programs help mend broken hearts”

 

 

 

 

 

SS: Erin, how did you get to your current position?

EM: In 2015, I came to the UK to study a MSc in global mental health at King’s College London and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Originally, I came to study women’s addiction, but was surprised to find I had developed a strong interest for stillbirth bereavement. I knew I wanted to continue my career in academia, so I spent time looking for an institution that would be the right fit for my PhD. I interviewed for a PhD studentship at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2017, and was delighted to receive an offer for a fully funded scholarship and stipend. I began my program in February 2018. Currently, I’m in the process of developing my final proposal where I plan on researching how bereaved parents of stillbirth participate in peer support programs and how participating in these groups impact their grief journeys.

 

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

EM: As a child, I wasn’t encouraged to pursue science since it wasn’t a strong area in my studies.  My mother was chronically ill which meant that I was preoccupied with tending to her and worrying about her health, that I couldn’t concentrate on my school subjects.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a doctoral student! Fortunately, my grandmother encouraged me to enroll first in a community college and then a four-year university. Later, I received academic support from my female professors. Patricia Jensen JD, was a consistent form of support throughout my MA at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The most valuable lesson she taught me was to show up. “The world is run by people who show up. You don’t have to be the best, you don’t have to be the most, but you do need to show up”. As simple as this advice may sound, it’s much harder to follow through with it on a day-to-day basis. However, it is now a guiding principle in my life.

 

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

EM: Although my subject area is heavy and very sensitive, I love the fact that I can work directly with bereaved parents and with charities. A lot of the work I’m doing currently involve meeting with people and hearing their experiences of losing a child and perspective of mental health care after their loss in the UK. These parent’s experiences are the fuel for my research. I enjoy developing a project that will impact programming and support for families who experience baby loss.

 

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

EM: I’m an avid believer in women supporting women, and Soapbox Science serves as a vehicle for scientists to meet each other outside formal settings. In addition, I love that this event brings the public and researchers together to break down societal silos.

 

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

 EM: Luminosity.

 

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

EM: The glamorization of the ‘imposter syndrome’ is something I actively want to change on my campus. It’s so common for novice researchers to feel inadequate to others in their field, and to internalize their fears as fuel to do their work. It’s normal to hear fellow doctoral students to devalue their skillset and to belittle their own work! If they couldn’t succeed, they wouldn’t have been selected to do a PhD program. I would love to see self-confidence grow on campus and gain a presence to counteract the inadequacy of the imposter syndrome.

 

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

EM: No one else can do the work you can do.  There is plenty of room at the table for you, and the work you want to do. Your interests are important, and your perspective is needed. Finally, choose the institution with the most support rather than choosing the institution’s brand and reputation.

 

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Share your findings and improve trust in science: Meet Michelle Hulin

Dr Michelle Hulin (@michhulin), NIAB EMR, will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Hop, skip, jump: How bacteria evolve to infect new plant species”

 

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

MH: I am currently a postdoctoral researcher. To get here, I first did a BSc degree in Biology at the University of Bath. I had the opportunity to undertake a summer research placement in the university molecular biology labs during my second year working on molecular detection of spoilage yeast. In my third year I transferred these skills to work on detection of Fusarium wilt oil palm disease for my dissertation. These experiences and the supervisors convinced me that I would really like to continue working in science, so I applied for a PhD at the University of Reading/NIAB EMR, supervised by Prof Robert Jackson, Prof John Mansfield and Dr Richard Harrison. This was looking at the evolution of pathogenicity and host specificity of bacteria on cherry trees. I aimed to understand what genes allowed the bacteria to cause disease. In my final year of my PhD I helped write a research grant to continue my current research. I am employed as a post-doctoral researcher at NIAB EMR working on this grant. My main interests are bacterial genetics and evolution, combining molecular biology with bioinformatic analysis. I’d like to apply these skills to other important bacterial plant diseases.

 

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

MH: I really enjoyed studying biology at school and university. Science is a very rewarding and interesting career path as you can put your all into trying to understand the world around you. During university, I enjoyed microbiology courses and studying the interactions between microbes and higher organisms such as plants and animals. I was interested in what drives some microorganisms to become pathogenic. I also enjoyed plant science modules, so brought the two interests together to study plant pathology in my PhD.

 

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

MH: The part of my work that I find most fascinating is how bacteria can rapidly evolve to adapt to their environmental conditions and how they interact with plants. These interactions are often called an arms-race where the pathogen and plant species are constantly evolving to overcome the other. Our work on cherry pathogens, has shown that these bacteria have gained and lost multiple pathogenicity genes during their evolution and that this has helped them adapt to cause disease towards this particular host plant. Some of these important genes have been gained on plasmids which are small circular pieces of DNA that bacteria can transfer to each other, whilst another important gene has been gained within a bacteriophage sequence (a bacteria-infecting virus).

 

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

MH: I really want to engage more with the public about science, I think it is important to share our findings and improve trust in science. I’d like to inspire young biologists to study plant pathology as this is an area of key importance for future food security and we do not want there to be a generational gap in experts in this area. You can study fundamental questions about evolution and ecology using plant-microbe systems making them just as interesting as human and animal pathogens!

 

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

MH: Rewarding

 

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

MH: I would like to improve the way science is communicated to the public. There is a lot of mistrust in science such as fears of genetically modified food and doubts about climate change. Science is often misconstrued and over-hyped by the media and it seems that every food item can cause or prevent cancer leading to a lot of confusion! I would really like there to be more training on scientific communication from schools upwards.

 

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

MH: Don’t be afraid of failure, science doesn’t always answer your questions straight away and often experiments will not work. Do the science that you enjoy doing and present it to others with pride!

 

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Don’t be afraid to dream BIG: Meet Heather Ferguson

Dr Heather Ferguson (@hethstar81), University of Kent, will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Me, myself and I: your social brain in old age”

 

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

HF: I always wanted to be a vet, but during my A’levels discovered that I wasn’t smart enough to get in! Back then, A’level options were relatively limited, but I got my first sneak peak of psychology in my English Language lectures where I learnt about child language acquisition, and I was hooked! I studied for my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Glasgow for 4 years. My ambition then was to become a clinical psychologist, which would have involved another 3 years of specialised training, but this was hugely competitive. After a meeting with a clinical psychologist I realised that I would have a better chance of getting onto the clinical training if I had a clinically-relevant PhD, so I applied for funding, and was lucky enough to be awarded money to fund my masters and PhD at the University of Glasgow. Before that first year was up, I knew I’d found my home in research, and wouldn’t be going back to clinical! After my PhD I took up a 2 year postdoctoral position in Linguistics at University College London (following a chance meeting and job offer at a conference), then joined the University of Kent as a Lecturer in Psychology in 2009.

 

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

HF: Probably my A’level chemistry teacher, Mr Jeal. I was terrible at chemistry (ironic since my identical twin sister is a pharmacist, and all round chemistry genius!), and I didn’t really the subject. But then, in the second year of the A’level course we had to complete an independent research study- formulate a hypothesis, design an experiment, run it, analyse the data and write it up. I LOVED it, and for the first time in two years on that course, I excelled. Mr Jeal was incredibly encouraging, helped me apply that energy to understanding other aspects of the course, and even awarded me a certificate for best project!

 

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

HF: Generally, my favourite thing about being a researcher is coming up with a question, designing an experiment to answer it, analysing the data and (hopefully) discovering the answer at the end- it’s a very satisfying cycle. Specifically related to my own research I think the most fascinating thing is that I study social communication: how people interact and understand each other, especially how they infer meanings, intentions etc that might otherwise be hidden. I think it’s fascinating because social interaction is central to almost everything we do- we do it all the time, in hugely complex ways, usually without much effort- and yet it can go catastrophically wrong! I want to find out why.

 

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

HF: I already participate in quite a lot of events to share science with the public (e.g. Pub talks, University of the 3rd age links, etc), and I find those events extremely rewarding and interesting. I’m also a firm believer that as researchers we have a duty to communicate what we’re doing to the public- after all what we’re doing SHOULD be relevant to them, and their opinion on it should matter, even more so when our research has been supported by large grant funding or involves members of the public as participants (as my research does!). The format of Soapbox science is very unusual, so I’m interested to see how that works.

 

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

HF: Busy!

 

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

HF: More transparent

 

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

HF: Don’t be afraid to dream BIG, take risks, and talk to people (including being nice to admin staff, make friends with fellow PhD students, keep up to date with academics in your dept, and don’t be afraid to approach senior acads at conferences, by email etc).

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Science is much more than test tubes and lab coats: Meet Adriana Lowe

Adriana Lowe (@adriana_lowe) is a PhD student at the University of Kent. She will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Life and death in the forest: studying the behaviour of wild chimpanzees”

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

AL: I’m currently doing a PhD at the University of Kent. I did my BA at Durham and my MSc at UCL. During my MSc and in the following year I had the opportunity to do fieldwork in Nigeria and co-author several publications with my supervisor which helped me to win the scholarship to study at Kent.

 

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

AL: I had some very engaging teachers as part of my undergraduate and masters degrees. Once I’d got hooked on biological anthropology there was no going back!

 

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

AL: The most fascinating aspect has to be getting to see my study subjects in the wild and observing their behaviour.

 

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

AL: I love talking to people about what I do. My subject tends to grab people’s attention since everyone is fascinated by the animals and it’s a great opportunity to explain that science is much more than test tubes and lab coats!

 

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

AL: Fun!

 

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

AL: Work-life balance. There’s still a mentality that if you love your job you shouldn’t mind doing it all day, every day for very little reward. I really enjoy my research but being a scientist is only one part of who I am and I think having a life outside work should be encouraged rather looked down on.

 

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

AL: Well I’m still only studying for a PhD myself so I don’t know how much career advice I can really give! So far the key to both enjoying my work and doing it well has been wonderfully supportive supervisors and other members of staff in my department. Going forward I’ll try to remember that the people I work with are one of the most valuable resources and to look carefully at the working environment and attitude of any team/department I might apply for a job with.

 

 

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Focus on your achievements: Meet Claire Stewart

Claire Stewart (@clairecology) is a PhD student in the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. She will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Deciding what species to save”

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

CS: Well a little bit of luck actually! My MSc supervisor at the University of Queensland in Australia was giving a talk about systematic conservation planning and said that the “people at Kent use this software (Marxan) too”. I was pretty homesick for the UK so later that day looked up PhD opportunities at Kent and there was one advertised on conservation planning for England with Dr Bob Smith. So I applied and feel very lucky to be here!

 

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

CS: Is it cheesy to say David Attenborough? I think he has inspired everyone to care about the natural world. My parents have always encouraged me to ask questions and my bedroom was covered in science posters and animal toys so they have a lot to answer for!

My undergraduate and masters supervisors have all been exceptionally encouraging so they definitely inspired me to purse an academic career.

 

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

CS: I think when you tell someone at a party that you are a conservation scientist then they imagine you spend your day surrounded by animals. However I spend a good chunk of my day doing stats or making models which will hopefully have positive outcomes for biodiversity. I think it is fascinating that we can use math to help wildlife. I was always good at math at school, so I would have been very excited if I knew equations could help save more animals!

 

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

CS: I’m very passionate about women in STEM and encouraging young girls to know it is possible for them to become scientists in the future. As a kid I thought a scientist was a “boy job” so I hope being a part of Soapbox Science will show kids (and parents!) that science is not a boys jobs and can be a fun and exciting career for women.

 

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

CS: FUN

 

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

CS: The work-life balance. I think there can be a bit of competition over who works the most or most ridiculous hours which I think can result in people feeling inadequate or guilty if they take a few days off.

 

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

CS: Try to not doubt yourself! I don’t think I know a single woman in science who doesn’t suffer from bouts of imposter syndrome (including me!). We can’t all be imposters, so try and focus on your achievements and the things you do know instead of what you don’t know yet. You can always learn.

 

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Scientists have the superpower to make the world a better place: Meet Raysa Khan

Raysa went to school in Stockholm and after graduating top of her BSc degree in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry from Nottingham Trent University, she joined the University of Sussex for a PhD in Chemistry in 2014. Having recently submitted her PhD thesis, she continues to work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Sussex in medicinal chemistry in the field of cancer research. Raysa is speaking at Soapbox Science Brighton on 2nd June 11am-2pm with her talk “Using Cutting-edge Drug Design to Beat Cancer and Treat Up to 100,000 Patients Per Year”. Thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry for supporting Raysa’s talk.

 

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

RK: Despite the recent efforts and enhanced awareness in tackling gender stereotypes for career in science, one can still see a significant lack in the participation of women in scientific career. As a female scientist, I do believe, Soapbox’s public outreach platform and its novel approach in promoting research by women scientists is a great way to showcase what we do and encourage youngsters to pursue career in science. This initiative also provides a unique platform to hone public speaking and communication skills for young researchers like me. Finally, what I am most excited about and looking forward to is meeting people, having a good time and sharing different aspects of my work that I am passionate about.

 

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

RK: I have always been interested in science and maths, however, I grew up in a community where, time and again, I have been told that a career in science is not where a woman might fit in. In light of the prevalent misogyny, I guess, as a rebellious teenager, I wanted to prove them wrong. I decided to pursue chemistry after high school, where I had a great teacher who made us interested in science and taught us that chemistry is nothing but solving problems by asking the right questions. And the good thing is that the question does not have to be always right. It’s a process of trial and error where perseverance and dedication often pay off. The reason I came to Medicinal Chemistry and pursuing a career in drug discovery is that I have always wanted to make an impact and help others.

 

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

RK: My PhD and current work are focused around making new compounds and seeing if they can be utilised in the drug discovery process to treat various diseases. As researchers, we learn to accept the hard fact that often it takes a lot of time, effort and a process of trial and error to find solutions. However, what I find energising is the thrill of finding new ways of solving problems. Besides, to me, the most fascinating aspect of my current research is, if successful, we are going to be able to help approximately 100,000 new cancer patients each year.

 

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

RK: I was trained as a chemist in my BSc and my PhD was focused around synthetic chemistry. Currently, I work in medicinal chemistry, where various scientific disciplines come together. Although my work is mainly as a synthetic chemist, I never the less, need to work and collaborate with biologists and also need to know about various mathematical techniques and computer modelling as part of my day to day work.

 

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

RK: I believe dedication, perseverance and team work are the three most important attributes for a career in scientific research. In my line of work, things don’t always work out as one would hope. Arguably there is a positive correlation of success with dedication and perseverance. One needs to be patient and keep on trying, because all the hard work is totally worth it to get the result at the end! I also believe that, most of what we do is collaborative and often are multidisciplinary, in order for the work to reach its full potential and have true impact, there is no alternative to having an effective team dynamic.

 

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

RK: Gender inequality. Women are still underrepresented in STEM and I would like to see equal ratio of women and men in scientific research.

 

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

RK: For the female students considering pursuing a career in academia, I would say, there are lots of opportunities out there to thrive and shine in a scientific career. We should embrace every opportunity to engage and showcase our capabilities. I know that we girls have traditionally lacked professional female role models in STEM but I am grateful that slowly but surely things are changing. For instance, my current workplace, Sussex School of Life Sciences holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award, which emphasises that the faculty is trying to actively improve on its commitment to advancing women’s careers in STEM employment in academia.

 

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

RK: Science is fun, more like solving puzzles and making Lego, you get to make new and cool things that have true and real impact. As a scientist, you get to find answers to the most complex and difficult questions and you get to have the superpower to make the world a better place.

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Have a dream for the future you would like to build: Meet Elizabeth Rendon-Morales

Elizabeth is a Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Sussex. In her career she has travelled around the world, working in different fields of engineering. Elizabeth will be explaining her current research at Soapbox Science Brighton on 2nd June 11am-2pm with her talk “Are robots the future for medicine and health care?” Thanks to the School of Engineering and Informatics for supporting Elizabeth’s talk.

 

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

ERM: As female scientist, I would like to share my research with a non-specialized audience, as I believe that the general public needs to know that the UK needs more Engineers to help solve some of the challenges in the healthcare system. Soapbox science is the perfect outreach event to communicate that.

My research is about novel technology developments based on electronics and sensors to develop future medical robots. This will assist doctors and nurses to perform, for example precision surgery.  I am especially targeting young female students as we need more women in Engineering given that in the UK we are only 9% of the total working workforce.

 

SS: Tell us about your career pathway

ERM: I am engineer scientist who is passionate about Cardio-engineering and Robotics for health-care. I was born in Mexico, were I completed my BSc degree in Telecommunications Engineering at National University of Mexico, I did a Master degree at ITAM/TELECOM Bretagne in France. Through my PhD, I contributed significantly to the wireless telecommunication area at the UPC Engineering-Department Spain. In 2014, I was awarded with Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions COFUND post-doctoral fellowship at Sussex. My research achievements rely on the development and testing of novel electronics, sensors and robotic devices for medical applications. As a Lecturer I am motivating young students to develop technology for the healthcare area.

I believe that outreach and education are the cornerstone of any society that is why I have taken advantage of my role as STEM ambassador, visiting schools, giving talks for young students titled “Sensors for Healthcare”. I am the academic leader of programs such as RAEng HeadStart and Widening Participation Sussex Student Experience to encourage young girls to study engineering.

 

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

ERM: I wanted to study engineering because my father did electronics at home. He taught me the basis of electricity and magnetism which really caught my interest. My husband is an engineer scientist too, he inspires me everyday to do hands on projects and he has been very supportive and always encouraged me to keep following my dreams, especially if it is helping others.

 

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

ERM: Making my technology available to real people will make a real difference. This is the most fascinating aspect of my research as my work is focussed on designing innovative technology for medicine. As well as my students, I hope to inspire my daughter one day, to develop technology that matters, to develop technology that can change people lives.

 

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

ERM: To develop medical robotics we need to work in a multidisciplinary team that includes: Cardiologist, Biomedical Engineers, Electronics and Robotics engineering, Doctors, Biologist, Mechanical Engineers and Programmers/ Informatics.

 

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

ERM: Engineers throughout our careers develop skills such as technical competence, problem solving, scientific understanding and team working to solve any challenge.

 

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

ERM: Engineering is for women!

Did you know that only 9% of engineers in the UK are female?

By 2030 the UK will be limited to solve the future challenges if we do not prepare future engineers today.  As a female engineer, I would like to change that, I am especially targeting young female students as we need more women in Engineering given that in the UK we are only 9% of the total working workforce.  9% is not enough!

 

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

ERM: Have a dream for the future you would like to build, especially if it is related to helping others. Have confidence that you are gifted for developing something, and finally have perseverance to reach your goal and make it happen.

 

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

ERM: You are going to be a great inventor! Work hard and Follow your dreams! For kids I really recommend watching Big Hero 6.

 

 

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Science brings out your creativity: Meet Oyinkan (Onyx) Adesakin

Onyx has spent significant amounts of time in three different Continents. Having grown up and studied in Nigeria up to GCSE level, and then came over to the UK for her A-levels and Undergraduate degree. She went on to pursue a PhD in the States, and came back to the UK for a Postdoc position. Onyx is now a Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Sussex, researching Alzheimer’s disease. Onyx will be at Soapbox Science Brighton on 2nd June 11am-2pm with her talk “Learning about dementia using fruit flies, what’s all the buzz?” and is supported by the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex.

 

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

OA: Talking about my research to the public, and communicating to mostly non-scientists in a manner I am not usually accustomed is scary but also very exciting. I am looking forward to standing on the box, on Brighton beach; and listening to the wonderful breadth of research carried out by the amazing speakers.

 

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

OA: My parents definitely instilled the love for Science, because they both have a Science background, and I was constantly surrounded by it. Over the years, my curiosity has kept that flame going.

 

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

OA: That I am contributing to defeating Dementia! And that I am using fruit-flies to do this.

 

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

OA: Genetics, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Cell biology

 

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

OA: I call them the three “P”s

Patience – You have to do a lot of waiting, a lot!

Perseverance – You have to be determined to continue

Passion – You have to have a reason to stay patient and persistent

 

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

OA: The time between writing a grant, and hearing the outcome is such a long process…it would be great if the turn around time was much shorter

 

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

OA: That’s a tough question… I guess make sure you have a passion for it….Perhaps, get involved with some teaching while you are doing your PhD etc. to determine if you enjoy it.

 

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

OA: I think it is the best thing in the world, I might be SLIGHTLY biased!  It brings out your creativity, it is constantly stimulating/challenging, and there is not a dull moment.

 

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