Everyone has a different path into academia: Meet Sara Correia Carreira

Dr Sara Correia Carreira, University of Bristol, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday 15th July with a talk called: “Now the drugs don’t work- what you can do to save humanity from superbugs”

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

SC: I started by studying for a degree in Biology back home in Berlin. After that, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually do research and stay in academia, so I spent some time in Spain working in the Knowledge Transfer Office of a research institute, learning all about intellectual property rights, research funding and the whole managerial aspect around science. That was really dull and I realised that I wanted to be in the lab, doing the research. I moved to Bristol in 2008 to work in a research lab at the hospital and really enjoyed it! I now knew academia was the thing for me, so in 2011 I embarked on a PhD, really enjoyed that, and since 2015 I’ve been working as a Postdoc- and still enjoying it!

 

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

SC: My dad and my brother. My parents come from rural villages in Portugal, education was not the number one priority when they grew up. Still, my dad had (and has) a never-ending curiosity, which drove him to explore things he was interested in. He’s constantly experimenting in his own little ways! He passed this spirit on to me and my brother. My brother is six years older than me, so I’ve always looked up to him and wanted to do everything he did. He was massively into MacGyver and Star Trek, and -as a consequence- so was I. I remember playing with an electronics kit that he had and discussing how things worked. He’s now a physicist interested in aspects of the social sciences, and as it turned out, I am also an interdisciplinary scientist, bridging the physical and life sciences.

 

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

SC: Being at the forefront of knowledge every single day. The stuff that I and other scientists are working on right now is unchartered territory, and by the time we publish our work for everyone to read about it we’ve already moved even further forward. I remember a colleague in the engineering department telling me about a recent visit to the Nokia research labs. The stuff they’re working on right now may come the shops in five years or so, but as an engineer and scientist you know about this future today.

 

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

SC: The idea of being in the middle of the people, embarking on a direct dialogue. I’ve been reading focus group reports compiled by several organisations to figure out what the public thinks about antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance, and some things are truly shocking. So I’m hoping that by talking to people directly I can clear up misconceptions and discuss any questions they may have.

 

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

SC: Fun

 

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

SC: Short-term contracts. Honestly, they kill everything. When you have a complete staff turn-over every three years, how can there be a decent degree of continuity in your research? Postdocs leave and take their expertise with them. People drop out of academia because there is no job security for junior researchers. The nature of research funding has probably to do with that, projects are just funded for around three years during which time you have to 1) do the work successfully (!), 2) publish it in a fancy journal and 3) put in the next grant application to keep the project going. You have to be lucky to achieve all this within your three-year time limit. I wish there were “staff scientist” positions at uni, similar to the positions in industry.

 

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

SC: Same as for a man: find a research topic that genuinely excites you, nothing is more soul-destroying than slaving in the lab for something you don’t really care about. And stop comparing yourself with others, everyone has a different path into academia and yours is as right as mine.

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Research should demonstrate how it is solving real world problems: Meet Parimala Shivaprasad

Parimala Shivaprasad is a second year PhD student at the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Bath. Having completed both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from India, she moved to the UK in 2015 to start her PhD with a research scholarship from the university. Her research aims to integrate sustainability into current chemical processing techniques through novel catalyst and reactor design. Though the current focus is on pharmaceutical industries, the project can be extended to a diverse range of chemical industries. Parimala is also an avid science communicator and has engaged the public with her research in various events like Pint of Science, Science Show-off, Three Minute Thesis to name a few. She is also a member of the Student Women Engineering Society at Bath and is involved in various STEM outreach activities for young girls. As a parallel interest, she is also in the process of validating her start-up with the support of the university’s Innovation Centre. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking and travelling. You can catch Parimala on her soapbox at the Bristol event on Saturday July 15th with a talk called: The Miracle Fibre: A sheepish way of curing diseases” 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

PS: I got my first and second degree in Chemical Engineering from India. I have always wanted to be an academic and I enjoy doing research, so a PhD was the next step to take. I was quite keen on studying for a PhD in the UK for the excellent quality of research, though as an international student, getting a funded PhD position was difficult. I applied for several positions before my current supervisor was impressed with my application and recommended me for a scholarship at University of Bath, where I am currently pursuing my PhD in Chemical Engineering.

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

PS: My inspiration for taking up a career in science is my father. As a chemist, he has played a pivotal role in nurturing my interest in chemistry and the enormous impact it has on our day to day life. The idea of taking reactions in a test tube and scaling up in a reactor seemed more practical, which further led me to consider chemical engineering, thus combining the best of science and technology.

 

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

PS: My research focuses on sustainable chemical processing and I am currently testing a novel reactor to synthesise starting materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Life never gets monotonous when I am working on my project, with surprises lurking around every corner (Though I must admit, not all of them seem pleasant at first!). For example, it was by shear accident that I found wool had properties that could aid in chemical processing. Though it seemed like a human error in the beginning, after rigorous examination, it turned out to be true opening up a whole new avenue in my PhD and also my talk for the event! Sustainability being the main aim of the research has also led to making sure that the research methodology also addresses the aim by being more responsible about energy consumption and chemical inventory resulting in reduction of waste generation for the length of the project.

 

My research summed up in a picture
 

 

 

 

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

PS: In addition to being a women centric platform for public engagement, I felt that the format of the event was really unique. The concept of having to reach out to the general public and grab their attention is a bit of a challenge but also exciting. It opens up an opportunity to tailor the talks according to the audience gathered round and also helps in answering specific questions on the spot.
 

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

PS: Knowledge exchange!

 

 

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

PS: Today, the entire world is doing quality research in a broad range of subject areas. However, technology transfer to industries is happening at a very slow pace resulting in an eternal gap between research organisations and industries.  Research output should not be restricted to just the number of publications, but should also demonstrate how it is helping solve a problem in real time.
 

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

PS: The path leading to a career in academia may seem like an endless tunnel. One has to be committed, hardworking, optimistic and extremely passionate about the journey to see the light at the end of it. It takes a million failed attempts to get a break through in research and if you can pick yourself up after every failed attempt and see it through, welcome aboard!

 

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We need to inspire people to follow the career path they want to: Meet Nicola Bailey

Dr Nicola Bailey, University of Bath, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday July 15th 2017 with a talk called: “How do you get a robotic arm to have precise and predicable small-scale motion?”

 

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

NB: I started my mathematics undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham in 2007. During this time I developed an interest using maths to model complex engineering problems, working on ‘real world issues’ was what really interested me. An undergraduate scholarship led to a research project working on optimising jet engine components. I found this project really rewarding and I was lucky enough to continue with the group for my PhD where we teamed up with Roll Royce who actually make the jet engines for many of the commercial airlines.

Although the PhD was hard work, I knew by this point that I wanted to continue doing research so I applied for an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Doctoral Prize which allowed me to make my modelling more realistic. This prize gave me more independence from my supervisors, which is important for an academic career. By this time, I had been at Nottingham for 8 years and I decided it was time to move to a different university to experience a different perspective, so in 2015 I moved to the University of Bath as a research associate studying the precision control of robotic arms. This was a great experience and allowed me to expand into experimental work which was a new and enjoyable addition to my previous research using only simulations. Although relatively new to Bath I had great support from the staff in my department, particularly my manager and mentor and with their approval I applied for my first lecturer position at Bath and got it!

 

 

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

NB: From a young age, I have always been interested in understanding how and why things work as well as designing and constructing systems, from playing with mechano to building a bike to DIY projects at home. Following a career in science has allowed me to look at more complex systems that we encounter in everyday life and push the boundaries of these new technologies, through both theoretical and experimental work.

 

 

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

NB: For myself, the most fascinating aspect of my work is being able to bring to life an idea that I have or research an area of science that I find interesting and feel I can contribute to. My research focuses on improving the performance of new and existing technology. I love seeing my ideas taken from a theoretical concept through to implementation in a fully working mechanism. Last year I had a picture of an automated robotic arm in my head, and now it is fully constructed and moving automatically!

 

 

SS: What attracted you to soapbox science in the first place?

NB: There are a few reasons I wanted to take part in soapbox science but mainly I saw it as a chance to inspire people to follow the career path they want to. Many people’s idea of a mechanical engineer, an engineer or a scientist in a broader sense, is often far from the reality. I really enjoy what I do and if it wasn’t for people showing me from an early age the opportunities that are available in science I may have missed out! When I explain my research, I get asked a lot ‘how do you research Maths? Isn’t everything in Maths known? I hope this opportunity will help answer this question and give people an understanding of the research that can be undertaken! I also hope that I will be able encourage the younger generations to go for the courses, jobs and careers that they want to do and your age, gender or social background doesn’t matter!

 

 

SS: Sum up in one work your expectations for the day.

NB:Inspiring

 

 

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

NB: As an academic, I think science is a great fantastic to work. Universities are great in that they have intelligent and driven individuals at all stages of life. One thing I would love to see would be an equal representation of gender in all fields, and that goes both ways. I believe there are stigmas for women attached to subjects like maths and engineering, just as there are for men in areas wrongly considered the domain of women. To bring balance we need to start at the most fundamental levels, at home and in school. However vital work is also needed to stop the high rates of attrition we see professionally. I would love for people to follow their interests and do what they want to regardless of their gender, background, or social situation. We are definitely moving in the right direction but there is much more to be done.

I also feel a big problem for scientists is the frequently large gaps they experience between finishing their PhD and obtaining a permanent contract. For example, highly qualified scientists, working at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world are having to repeatedly apply for contracts that can last less than a year. This coupled with the highly stressful politics of grant and paper authorship (lead authorships are essential for survival) can outweigh the benefits of an academic career. This instability, both in a personal and career sense causes us to lose some of the otherwise promising early career researchers.

 

 

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

NB: Go for it!

An academic career can be hard work, both while pursing your first lectureship and after having achieved it. You will have to dedicate a lot of time, effort and be willing to put in long hours when you need to, but I would rather have a job I love and that stimulates me than one that is easy! Academia can be very rewarding, for example when your students succeed, you obtain an important/interesting result or get a breakthrough. The advantage of academia is that you have more freedom in research compared to industry jobs, and can manage multiple research projects in different areas which are within your interest.

What worked for me was working consistently, minimising procrastination and too many coffee breaks/late starts. Finding good supervision and mentorship (which was more luck than judgement) was also key to my success.

 

 

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Do something that makes a difference and will truly have an impact: Meet Lynsey Gozna

Dr Lynsey Gozna (@dranzog), University of Leicester / University of Nottingham, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday July 15th 2017 where she will give a talk called:  “The fantasy and reality of revenge”

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

LG: I have been working in academia for over a decade teaching forensic psychology and conducting research in the area of serious offending and risk assessment including revenge, child sexual exploitation, stalking and arson.  I moved into academia on the completion of my PhD in the detection of deception and completed this along with my previous employment as a psychologist working on defence and security research programmes, mainly for the Ministry of Defence.  My research has always involved collaboration with external organisations (e.g. police forces, fire service, probation, prisons and forensic mental health) because I think it is critical in this field to conduct research that has real world impact – that means it is generally not helpful to have undergraduate students as our samples.

 

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

LG: I have always had an interest in investigating mysteries – it started with my childhood focus on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and ‘The Hardy Boys’ and ‘Nancy Drew’ – this moved to Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock.  Once I was studying Psychology, it was the forensic area that most interested me to learn about what motivates people to commit crime and how to reduce offending and understand and support victims.  Most recently my considerations of practice work have been influenced by psychoanalytic approaches to understanding behaviour such as Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm.

 

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

LG: My research is mainly qualitative in approach because in applied forensic psychology it is critical to understand fully the realities of the offending people commit and to understand in particular personality, motive and mindset.  Therefore being involved in interview research where you can hear the experiences of individuals who have experienced a range of adversity but who have also committed offences themselves allows you to gain insights into their motive and how they see the world.  This undoubtedly informs my practice work and teaching because I am able to draw from real world narratives.  Reducing people down to a set of numbers simply doesn’t allow me to explore the issues I am interested in.

 

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

LG: The opportunity to talk about my research and take this to the public domain is really important to me, particularly with fellow female scientists who are all passionate about their research.  There can be misconceptions about offending behaviour, perhaps because many people do not routinely work with this client group.  Most recently I have been exploring revenge motivated offending and this has highlighted the experiences of male offenders who have been victims themselves and who have struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of abuse, neglect, violence and the corresponding damage.  To be able to explore these issues sensitively with the public in terms of how childhood adversity can lead to offending and in particular the victimization of boys and young men is critical to helping society protect the vulnerable.

 

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

LG: Memorable

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

LG: The greatest struggle I experience is the little value that is often placed on real world research – that is, research conducted outside of the laboratory.  There is a traditional view that statistics and laboratory experiments produce the best scientific outcomes and when you work in the world of forensic psychology, you know that this is not the case.  However this is a broader problem, people need to be more innovative in their approaches to research, think differently, be risk takers and not conduct research for the sake of it or purely to publish due to the pressures on academics.  We run the risk of valuing research that is constantly reinventing the wheel and not breaking new ground.  That is what I would like to change.

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

LG: I think it is important to pursue a scientific field that inspires you so that you have the opportunity to thrive in your career and to inspire others, especially those coming into the area.  The advice I would give to anyone would be that you have to make your own opportunities and don’t wait for others to create them for you.  Do something that makes a difference and will truly have an impact.

 

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Break down the feeling of ‘them and us’: Meet Joanne L Godwin

Dr Joanne L Godwin (@joannelgodwin), University of East Anglia, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday July 15th 2017 where she will give a talk called: “Sex-ual Selection in the City”

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

JG: Indirectly! It has been a long and winding journey, and one of my reasons for getting involved in Soapbox Science is to encourage girls and young women to think about a career in science and research.

My undergraduate degree was in biology and from there I went on to train as a science teacher but it wasn’t until I landed myself a job working at a field studies centre, and teaching about the environment, sustainability, geography and biodiversity, that I felt I had found my career. I loved helping children discover an interest in nature and being outdoors but, I reached a point where rather than teaching, I wanted to stretch my own knowledge and understanding so I went back to university to do a Master’s degree in Ecology. It was during my MSc that I met Professor Matt Gage and carried out my dissertation with him investigating environmental impacts on reproduction in insects. After my MSc I went back to environmental education but I had been bitten by the research bug and decided to apply to do a PhD. I got back in touch with Matt and went on to do my PhD as part of his research group studying evolution in populations of flour beetles. I am currently continuing this research as a post-doc.

 

 

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

JG: My career in science finally started when I realised that the things I love to do are answer questions and solve problems which wasn’t really until I started my PhD. I always loved science at school and biology in particular because I enjoyed being outside and was fascinated by how complex the natural world was. However, I took me years to realise that I could put these things together and they could be a career. One of the reasons I wanted to be involved in Soapbox Science is to highlight the wide range of science research and the diversity of scientists.

 

 

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

JG: Seeing evolution happening! I carry out ‘experimental evolution’ using populations of beetles. By carefully controlling the environment of the beetles but creating a single difference between populations, I can look for changes over generations.

 

 

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

JG: I think women are often less likely to promote themselves and/or not recognise their own achievements. I hope by getting involved in Soapbox Science I will encourage other women to be confident in their own knowledge and ability, and celebrate their successes.

 

 

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

JG: Inspiring

 

 

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

JG: I am concerned with the current feeling that the public don’t trust, or don’t want to listen to ‘experts’. I think it is important to show that experts/scientists are also ‘ordinary’ people and aren’t hiding away doing something secretive. I think it is important to break down the feeling of ‘them and us’.

 

 

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

JG: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t compare yourself to other people, just concentrate on your own achievements.

 

 

 

 

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Stay opened to every opportunity: Meet Hélène Cecilia

Hélène Cecilia (@HelCecilia), French National Institute for Agricultural Research, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday 15th July where she will be giving a talk called: “Turning biological events into equations and lines of code: the use of modeling in natural sciences”

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

HC: Less than 2 years ago, I finished my degree in bioinformatics and modeling at INSA engineering school in Lyon, France. I did my master thesis with Sabine Hauert at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and had an amazing time there! I was working on a program simulating the delivery of nanoparticles in brain cancer and I was able to truly visualize how would this swarm of nanoparticles evolve in the tumour by running my program on a thousand coin-sized robots, called Kilobots, in an arena! I loved Bristol’s atmosphere and that’s why I decided to come back there for SoapBox Science even if I’m now working in France.

I work as an engineer at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Nantes, developing a model of population dynamics of tsetse flies based on data from Senegal. Tsetse flies transmit a parasite responsible for sleeping sickness in humans and nagana disease in livestock. It is widely present in Sub-Saharian Africa and is considered one of the biggest constraints to the economical development of these regions because of its implication in food insecurity and public health. Mathematical models are needed to simulate the evolution of tsetse flies populations in a given environment (knowing the temperature and the vegetation for instance) and decide what is the best strategy to eradicate the species sustainably. And the truth is… I have never seen a tsetse fly once in my life! That’s why I hope that in my future job (hopefully a PhD!), I will be able to take part in field work before developing a model, to see the entire process of research !

 

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

HC: Probably my dad. He worked as an auto mechanic and is fascinated by how motors work, or any technologies we use daily, even if he had no scientific background. He taught me curiosity and problem solving, which led me to engineering. Until the end of high school, I was also considering studying medicine. But what interested me the most in this field was finding new cures to diseases. In the end, I found a way to work towards this goal with bioinformatics.

 

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

HC: When your lines of code are (finally!) able to reproduce what is expected to happen in the field, that’s always exciting! I even do some victory dance at my desk when it happens …

 

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

HC: I’m passionate about what I do, I often find myself talking about my research at parties and show my friends how cool it is! I am also a convinced feminist and I’ve seen too many people surprised when I say I love to code or play football, why should it be weird? I hope this event can help inspire some girls and fight some clichés!

 

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

HC: Enthusiasm!

 

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

HC: I have not been working for very long, so I haven’t seen all the flaws yet! But I wish we could convince researchers of the importance of science outreach. It’s a win-win! Scientists and citizens can both learn a lot by speaking together, and we could prevent the rise of some ideological drift : science can help fight racism, sexism, climatoscepticism! But we have to make the facts understandable by everyone, and it takes a bit of effort. But it’s worth it!

 

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

HC: I haven’t done a PhD yet so I’m not sure… But don’t let anyone tell what you can or cannot do, there is no such thing as « male-only » topics! If you’re curious and passionate about something, go for it. Go with the flow: stay opened to every opportunity and take the most out of it, do not censure yourself!

 

 

 

 

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Science should be about open communication: Meet Catherine Atherton

Catherine Atherton (@cat_atherton), Bangor University, is taking part in Soapbox Science Bristol on Saturday 15th July 2017 where she will be giving a talk called: “Storing images in the Brain: How we remember faces, objects and brands differently” 

 

 

 

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

CA: I completed my Underdgraduate studies in Psychology with Neuropsychology with a first Class Honours. I then went on to finish my Masters in Psychological Research with a distinction before starting my PhD in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience at Bangor University.

 

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

CA: I wanted to study more about the brain after being insprired by the work of Dr Oliver Sacks in the Nuerological field.

 

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

CA: Using Electroencephalograph technology and recording brainwaves. It is fascinating being able to watch people’s brains respond in real time to the world around them.

 

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

CA: It is becoming increasingly important for research to be communicated to the general public and I felt that Soapbox Science was a great opportunity to engage with the public and tell them about my research whilst simultaneously promoting women’s places in science.

 

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

CA: Engaging

 

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

CA: Publication Bias- Science should be about the open communication of knowledge and all results irrespective of whether the results are positive.

 

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

CA: Make the most of opportunities available to you, such as conferences, and other events such as Soapbox Science. This allows you to promote yourself and  your work but also promotes equality in science.

 

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There is no set path in life: Meet Caroline Sullivan

Dr Caroline Sullivan is a High Nature Value farmland researcher. She currently works as the Assistant Manager and Project Scientist on the Hen Harrier Project in Ireland. She enjoys communicating the importance of High Nature Value farmland and the need to support it to policy makers, local communities and anyone else with an interest. For fun she volunteers with the Galway Bat Group, monitoring bats and participating in bat walks for the local community, and identifies plants on Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland fieldtrips as well as holidaying in High Nature Value farmland areas in Ireland and across Europe. You can catch Caroline on her soapbox at the Glaway event on 15th July 2017 giving a talk called: “The Wild Atlantic Way; why it’s so beautiful and how farmers helped create it” 

 

by Caroline Sullivan

 

From plant ecology to the Wild Atlantic Way; an agroecologists journey

My career to date has seen many interesting and varied posts as I am always open to new opportunities. I always enjoyed biology and English in school but after careful consideration and consultation I chose to do a general science degree in NUI Galway. I’ve never liked the idea of being tied down to one thing (in any area of life) so the option of getting a feel for all the sciences really appealed to me. It was a field trip to the Burren at the very end of second year of my undergraduate course that really opened my eyes to botany (the study of plants). Latin names rolled off my tongue and the rainy conditions and long evenings with plant ID keys didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and by the end of my fourth year I had an honours degree in botany and a love of plant ecology (the effects of the environment on plants) in particular.
After my degree, I did a PhD on the Identification of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland in east Galway. This turned me into an enthusiastic agroecologist, thanks to the support of my supervisors Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Mike Gormally and John Finn. High Nature Value (HNV) farmland is extensively managed farmland that has high biodiversity. This farmland is important for the conservation of semi-natural habitats and the plants and animals linked with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clockwise from top left, some of the biodiversity supported by HNV farmland; The Kerry Slug feeding on moss, a bumblebee feeding on a Foxsglove, a hare feeding on some acid grassland and a fox hunting on HNV bogland.
Supporting this type of farmland will ensure high levels of farmland biodiversity, high water, air and soil quality, flood and climate change resilience and vibrant rural communities among other things. These farms occur most frequently in areas that are mountainous, or areas where natural constraints prevent intensification. There is lots more information on www.high-nature-value-farmland.ie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clockwise from top left: Upland HNV farmland in the Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, coastal HNV farmland in Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, wet grassland mosaic HNV landscapes of Co. Leitrim and upland HNV farmland in the Inishowen Peninsula, Co, Donegal.
I have been very lucky to work on the same topic as my PhD since I completed it in 2010. I have worked with farmers, admiring their work ethic, the landscapes that they manage despite challenging conditions and enjoying the biodiversity that these landscapes can support. In fact, the landscapes in Ireland that I most enjoy being in are High Nature Value farmland landscapes. In Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is a very successful tourist route that runs from Donegal to Cork. It brings tourists through many beautiful High Nature Value farmland areas perhaps without realising the farmers contribution to this tourism marketing tour de force.
I’m looking forward to the Soapbox Science event for a couple of reasons, firstly, it is often assumed that High Nature Value farmland exists with no effort but that isn’t the case and I feel that that Soapbox Science platform and location is ideal for addressing that. Secondly, it is a wonderful opportunity to show young children out there that there is no set path in life. If you have an interest in science, it is a very fulfilling and worthy career option that can lead you on a fun, adventurous and rewarding journey. The people I have worked with and for in the last seven years have been hugely supportive and inspirational and I hope to one day have the opportunity to be that type of mentor for other future ecologists.

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Make the most of the experiences that come your way: Meet Heather Lally

Dr Heather Lally is a lecturer in Freshwater Ecology and Biology at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Galway, Ireland. Heather’s areas of expertise are micro and macro freshwater algae, aquatic and riparian plants, and aquatic animals in particular macroinvertebrates which are baby insects living under rocks and in crevices in the water. Macroinvertebrates are an essential component of functioning river and lake ecosystems and are important bioindicators of water quality for these systems. Combining knowledge of water chemistry with the presence of certain macroinvertebrates provides a reliable method of determining water quality particularly during pollution events.  Understanding how these plants and animals response in Irish rivers and lakes to different land uses, pollution events and changing climatic patterns is central to her research investigations.

Currently, Heather’s research is investigating a new and emerging freshwater pollutant – Microplastics (small plastics particles). Understanding how these small plastics particles enter freshwater systems, determining where they go and what happens to them, and what impact they may have on the aquatic food web in particular top predators such as otter are key research questions to be addressed.

For her Soapbox Science talk this July in Galway she will be talking about “How do creepy crawlies adapt to living in a watery underworld

 

SS: How did you get to your current position?

HL: I got to my current position via the typical science route; first completing a BSc in Environmental Science and following that pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science, both at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). During my PhD, I found my passion for peatlands and their conservation.  However, on completing my PhD I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, so I took some time out to go travelling. On my return, I took up a postdoctoral position at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland on riverine riparian conservation and management. This allowed me to redirect away from peatlands to learn about rivers and their riparian zones in more detail. Having such a depth of knowledge and understanding in both wetland and river habitats allowed me to successfully take up my current position as lecturer in Freshwater Ecology and Biology at GMIT.

 

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

HL: From a very early age, I knew I loved the outdoors and always wanted to be exploring it. When it came to going to secondary school, I had a natural ability for biology and chemistry but when we went on an ecology field trip in my final year at school I really found my calling. It was my first experience of recording vegetation and insects and I loved it.  From then, I knew that I wanted a career in ecology where I could have a job that involved working outdoors and learning more about plants, animals and the habitats they live in. Choosing a BSc in Environmental Science was the perfect match, a great blend of lectures, practicals and field trips. Getting the opportunity to experience the many sampling techniques, learning about the various plants and animals, and seeing them in their habitat inspired me even more to pursue a long term career in science.

 

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

HL: The most fascinating aspect of my research is having the opportunity to continue delving into new and emerging freshwater pollution issues in Ireland, namely microplastics in freshwater systems. Developing novel and innovative sampling techniques and operating them in the field increases my capacity to think outside the box. There is anticipation of what the results might bring but also a great sense of pride that we are working on freshwater issues that matter to local communities and where the results will make a real policy change at both the national and European level. Adding our experiences from Ireland to that already collated from around the world allows collaboration and contribution to the greater scientific community.

The most fascinating aspect of my work is having the opportunity to now impart my excitement and knowledge of freshwater habitats onto the next generation of undergraduate scientists. I work on the BSc in Freshwater and Marine Biology at GMIT where undergraduates have many opportunities to experience freshwater and marine plants and animals in practicals and on field trips.  Working alongside students who are excited by these experiences, and encouraging and supporting them as they make the next steps towards postgraduate studies or getting professional jobs is very rewarding.

 

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

HL: I was first attracted to Soapbox Science as firstly it is a great platform for Women in Science to promote their research and work and secondly I saw it as a great opportunity to showcase and share my research interests in freshwater science with the general public, in particular children, at a regional, national and international level. Been awarded the opportunity to participant in this all female, global, public science engagement event affords me the chance to increase my science communication experience and extend my message to a much larger audience.

 

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

HL: Amazing

 

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

HL: Better work/life balance. The constant treadmill of lecturing, creating lecture notes, correcting continuous assessment, mentoring postgraduates, applying for grants plus other academic duties makes it difficult to fit in time for ourselves, family and friends particularly in the early years of an academic scientist.

 

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

HL: Go for it. Life is too short not to be doing the research and work you enjoy most. Every career has trials and tribulations which must be overcome and a career in science is no different.  Always follow your gut, make the most of the experiences that come your way even when they seem like veering of the path and enjoy the ride.

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Don’t underestimate yourself: Meet Katie Togher

Katie Togher is currently a fourth year PhD student at University College Cork working with the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT, www.infantcentre.ie/) and APC Microbiome Institute (APC, www.apc.ucc.ie). Her current research is investigating the mechanisms by which prenatal maternal stress may programme disease risk in affected children. In particular she is looking at how distress may impact the maternal, and subsequently, infant microbiome. Her research also focuses on how pregnancy stress may be impacting important genes involved in glucocorticoid signalling in the placenta.

Come and meet more amazing women scientists at Soapbox Science Galway on Saturday 15th July 2017.

 

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

KT: I realised I wanted to work in the area of developmental biology during the final year of my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience. I had a great research experience working on my final year project and approached one of the lecturers to do a research masters. From this, I secured a position at the INFANT centre which opened a lot of doors for me. During this time I was informed about a really interesting collaborative project with the APC microbiome Institute combining perinatal mental health with the microbiome. I jumped on board and quickly transitioned into a PhD with the two SFI centres.

 

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

KT: I have always been fascinated by the sciences and how things work. I studied biology, chemistry and physics for my leaving certificate and when I began my degree in biological and chemical sciences in University College Cork, I was sure I would go down the chemistry or physics route, but then fell in love with biology and research before specializing in Neuroscience. I am now lucky enough to work among some incredibly talented midwives, clinicians and scientists who keep me inspired every day.

 

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

KT: As a clinical researcher, I have the opportunity to meet many beautiful and strong women at one of the most exciting times in their lives. Watching women progress throughout their pregnancy, from a point where their baby is no bigger than the size of a grape to getting to meet a tiny human after birth is definitely what fascinates me the most. The fact that the female body is capable of growing humans from the initial joining of two cells is a medical and scientific miracle (for me at least). The process of how this is happening is fascinating to me and keeps me constantly engaged.

 

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

KT: I originally heard about soapbox science through the outreach programme at the INFANT centre and after reading more about the great work and commitment soapbox science has being providing to promote female scientists I thought, yes,  this is definitely something I want to get involved in.

 

SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the event.

KT: Powerful

 

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

KT: I think funding and job structure might be one of the biggest problems right now. Unfortunately there is very little job security for scientists which drives many people away from the career. It’s definitely a part of the vocation that needs to be improved..

 

 

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

KT: I haven’t quiet finished my PhD yet, but if I were to give advice to someone trying to decide on if they should enter into a career in research or not, I would say go for it. Be confidant, aware of your own abilities and don’t underestimate yourself! Also (and very importantly) take your time to find a topic that interests and inspires you. Science is hard work, but if you’re doing something you truly enjoy and are passionate about it makes everything a bit easier.

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