Sesime Coffie is currently a PhD student at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is a chemist, a STEM Ambassador, and a keen science communicator. Here, she tells us how her mum inspired her to pursue a career in science; how she believes having access to good mentors is key; and how the thrill of new discoveries is the most fascinating aspect of her research. Catch Sesime on her Soapbox this saturday June 20th 2-5pm in Belfast, where she will be talking about “Ionic liquids and its applications: Selective removal of metals”.
SS: Sesime, how did you get to your current position?
SC: I completed my undergraduate master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Science at Kingston University, London in 2012. My final year project involved using chitosan as hydrogels for ocular drug delivery. This research based project was an eye-opener into the research world which got me thinking of pursuing a career in research or perhaps obtaining PhD which would enable me to do more research based work. In 2013, I felt like I needed a new challenge and by serendipity I saw the advertisement for PhD in chemistry at QUILL, Queen’s University, Belfast which appealed to me. I applied for it and us they say “the rest is history”.
Since I have been in Queen’s, I have had the privilege to be involved in various science events both in-house and outside. Being a STEM ambassador I am able to impact my knowledge of science into young school pupils and to encourage them to enjoy STEM subjects.
Furthermore, I was actively involved and participated in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Guinness world record of having the largest practical science lesson which was held in Belfast this year. An amazing experience!
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
SC: I am not entirely sure to be honest but if I have to mention names then I would say my parents especially my mum. Growing up I spent a lot of time at the hospital after school with my mum who was a midwife/ nurse. I saw the many different aspects of her work and how it added to the jigsaw to saving lives and that inspired me to pursue a career in science.
Coming to the what, I like the diversity of science and the never ending “WHYs and HOWs” linked with it is what somehow led me to a PhD.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research?
SC: Seeing my work unfold and the thrill of new discoveries is the most fascinating aspect of my research. Working at the brink of my understanding and trying and wanting to know more to make sense of it all to answer to the WHY and HOW is always exciting.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
SC: The creativity it brings to science. The opportunity it gives females in science to share their knowledge in their various communities and to engage the public in science in a very exciting, fun and relax way.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day – excitement? Fear? Thrill? Anticipation?
SC: Adventure!! Fun!
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
SC: For me personally, I would change the way science is portrayed especially to females: It is not an extraordinarily difficult task for the elite few but rather an exciting and satisfying task and anyone with a “Can do” attitude can be successful in science.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a female PhD student considering pursuing a career in academia?
SC: I am not an academic yet but supposing I am, I would say a good mentor, determination and perseverance. Develop this belief system that you can have it all and have the confidence to go for it.